cover image HARRY, I NEED YOU!


Seymour Chwast, . . Houghton/Lorraine, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-17917-6

In this lukewarm breakfast-time book, a patient mother summons her son to the kitchen. "Hurry, Harry," she says, with no apparent sense of urgency. "I have a surprise for you." Harry, listening from his bedroom, wonders what the matter could be. "Maybe the sink overflowed," he thinks, clutching his pillow. A spread depicts his mother and little sister swimming in the kitchen, and their dog standing high and dry on the stove. As his mother continues calling, Harry imagines an earthquake; a kelly-green dinosaur stretching its neck through the window for "a glass of water"; and a spaceship parked outdoors as one-eyed aliens demand "to use the telephone." Readers know there is no emergency, for Harry's mother stands at the foot of the stairs, sighing, "I'm getting upset." The boy finally races downstairs with a baseball bat, expecting to find masked robbers, only to discover the cause for alarm: "The cat had kittens!" Chwast (Ode to Humpty Dumpty) effectively alternates between the unemotional mother and the agitated boy. Yet he draws the cartoon family in a milk-chocolate-brown outline, and chooses an enervated palette of plasticky red, baby-blue and old-chewing-gum ecru and teal. For all Harry's exaggeration, this drab volume never quite wakes up. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)