cover image DELILAH


John Bemelmans Marciano, . . Viking, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03523-6

Marciano (Madeline Says Merci) says au revoir to Madeline—his grandfather's beloved protagonist—and introduces characters of his own in this text-heavy tale. "Unschooled" little lamb Delilah, less expensive than the highly trained sheep at the factory farm, is all that a lonely farmer named Red can afford. But Delilah and Red become fast friends and even workmates: not only can Delilah weed, she can paint barns and gather eggs with her teeth. When Delilah's productivity enables Red to buy a dozen trained sheep, their misanthropic criticism drives a wedge between Delilah and Red ("You lick his head? How unsanitary!"). Eventually, though, Delilah follows her heart and not her herd. Marciano draws faces with the evocative simplicity of his grandfather's draftsmanship. Unfortunately, that restraint does not extend to the storytelling or the fulsome painting style. On one page, Red, wearing a bold plaid shirt, is framed by gray brick walls, a red tile floor, a white board ceiling and a checkerboard-roofed house in the background; on other spreads, a swarm of patterns and colors compete for readers' attention. Unrelated facing pages compound the busyness (e.g., a river on a left page flows smack into the middle of a garage on the right page). Although nearly upstaged by the visual ruckus, the sweetness of Red and Delilah's friendship quietly shines through. Ages 3-8. (May)