cover image Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Robin Muller. Scholastic, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-590-47278-4

Children are apt to be bemused by this elegant but jumbled picture book, which opens as a dapper cat in tails and tophat hides a package atop the chandelier while a masked, caped mouse looks on. Next, various animals attend (or crash) a chaotic party where they search for the bundle, identified in the text as a clock. Although the story seems to promise a challenging hunt, perhaps even a bit of mystery, it delivers neither. Some of the ``hidden'' clock faces heralded in the flap copy may be oddly placed (e.g., on a tabletop) but all are plainly visible; and the whereabouts of the package are revealed at the start. Duranceau's opulent, detailed paintings combine realistic figures with oddly surreal touches, such as a cow jumping out of a painting and a trio of Dali-inspired melting watches. With a luxurious palette that ranges from innocent pink to darkest indigo, these visual adornments make provocative individual tableaux, but are so unrelievedly dense that cumulatively they overwhelm. The text, verses loosely patterned after the nursery rhyme (``Margery, bargery, bow, / The monkey stubbed his toe''), offers little clarification and sometimes generates its own confusion (for example, snippets of dialogue are sometimes unattributed). Ages 5-11. (Feb.)