Elizabeth Swados, , illus. by Anne Wilson. . Scholastic/ Levine, $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-439-55476-3

In this chipper tribute to a man who runs an urban "animal rescue store," Swados (Hey You! C'mere! A Poetry Slam ) presents zany, free-flowing poems introducing the residents of Sidney's Store, whose proprietor takes in unwanted animals and cares for them until they find homes. After big-hearted Sidney cheerfully greets young visitors ("Hello come in/ .../ We got great news./ Baby alligators today./ Don't run away"), the narrative focuses on individual critters, which range from common (dog, cat, guinea pig) to less orthodox (buzzard, lobster) pets. Featuring intermittent rhyme and varying rhythms, the verse is mostly written from the perspective of the youngsters meeting the animals ( "Combination Plate," starring a mutt, is a hoot). Yet among the most entertaining poems are those in which the creatures speak for themselves. These include a tough-talking tabby ("How 'bout me?/ I'm a rough/ Tumble tomboy tabby/ Cat. Pssst!") and a pompous llama ("Yes I'm rahther glorious/ Yawn yawn rahther brilliant./ I find you rahther boring ho hum. Rahther"). Wilson's (The Owl and the Pussycat ) equally whimsical illustrations playfully portray the human and animal characters with an energetic mix of pencil outlines, swirling brushstrokes and collage elements. In the book's pleasing finale, as Sidney closes up shop at the end of the day, he announces, "Goodnight my/ Vagabond zoo./ I will find a home/ For every single/ One of you." Kids will enthusiastically welcome this colorful cast of critters into their homes. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)