cover image Chicken Soup, Boots

Chicken Soup, Boots

Maira Kalman. Viking Children's Books, $15 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85201-7

Unpredictable as ever, Kalman ( Max in Hollywood, Baby ) dons the cap of career counselor in her idiosyncratic and loquacious book. Speaking in the first person, Kalman presents biographies of various relatives and acquaintances (and one working dachshund), focusing on their occupations. She translates diner parlance (the title means ``an order of chicken soup, to go''); delves into the mysteries of smellologist Dr. Mel Smellman (``If your mouth's got a smell, BOY can he tell''); and introduces a photojournalist (``She wanted to be a painter. Only faster''). Each spread faces evenly spaced, multicolored text with a painted portrait of the subject. From a wheelchair-bound jingle-composer to an ``experimenter'' dressed entirely in soda cans, to an architect over whose head floats a giant lemon (the whimsical idea for a fruit-shaped candy shop), each is rendered with the trademark Kalman quirkiness. The youngest readers will enjoy the musicality of the text, while older members of the audience--even those old enough to be considering career changes themselves--will find the silly anecdotes and subversive humor engaging. Kalman gives outwardly plain jobs their due, imaginatively depicting many individuals and highlighting the extraordinary attributes they bring to daily tasks. All ages. (Oct.)