cover image The Picnic

The Picnic

Ruth Brown. Dutton Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-45012-2

Elaborate pictures and a few unadorned sentences afford a rabbit's-eye view of ordinary picnickers who unknowingly disrupt field animals in their quiet subterranean domesticity. Rabbits, mice and moles crouch fearfully in their burrow as the visitors arrive; are plunged into darkness when a biscuit lodges in their entrance; are sent scurrying by the ``scrabbling claws'' of a digging dog; and rejoice when rain drives the intruders away. Brown's delicate, masterful watercolors, with the sweep and detail of 19th-century landscape paintings, painstakingly recreate the creatures' pastoral world. Her palette capably accommodates the light-filled, grassy fields, the dim, sepia-toned interior of the burrow, and--in an astonishing chromatic shift--the black-on-black view of the animals huddled in the pitch-dark warren. A treasure. Ages 3-7. (Feb.)