cover image Today Is the Birthday of the World

Today Is the Birthday of the World

Linda Heller, , illus. by Alison Jay. . Dutton, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-525-47905-5

Creatures large and small—from a bee to an elephant—“pass before God” in this picture book with gentle ecological and moral overtones. One by one, God questions each animal about its actions during the previous year. To the giraffe, “Did you eat the highest leaves on the tree,/ Happy that I'd chosen you to make a path for the sun?”; to the cow, “Did you give your milk each day,/ Happy that I'd chosen you to feed so many children?” Extra spreads are devoted to a child who plants seeds, creates a painting, shares toys and plays (“This year, little child, my dear little child,/ Were you the best little child that you could be?” God asks). Heller's (The Castle on Hester Street ) repeating form lends the soothing tone of a lullaby, well-matched by Jay's (Welcome to the Zoo! ) bucolic scenes, their crackled surfaces playing up the feeling that animals have carried out their respective duties over the course of ages. Readers will be left feeling connected to the larger world, as one of the “dear little helpers” God praises. Ages 3–5. (Apr.)