cover image The Awful Aardvarks Go to School: 5

The Awful Aardvarks Go to School: 5

Reeve Lindbergh. Viking Children's Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85920-7

This witty, giddy alphabet book also takes a sideways glance at issues of crime and punishment. In a rhyming narrative that echoes the voice of a precocious first grader (complete with knowing asides), Lindbergh (View from the Air) relates the chaos that ensues when a quartet of mischievous aardvarks shows up at the local school: ""They Angered the Anteater, Ate All the Ants, And Bullied the Bunny (they pulled down his pants)."" In double-page spreads, Pearson's watercolor-and-ink drawings amplify the calamity by depicting the aardvarks as unstoppable. They seem omnipresent, defying all polite conventions of behavior and invading every animal's personal space. A tiny aardvark charts young readers' course, making stops at each of the 26 letters in the alphabet border that runs atop each spread. Children will pore over the details: in one spread, ""the Llama's new Lunchbox they Launched like a rocket,"" the Llama's list flies out with lute, lemon and lamp among its items (there's a thank-you Letter from the artist, too). Finally, after tormenting an alphabetic roster of victims (including a quintuplet of quails), the thugs are ""eXpelled""; and are last seen on their way to wreak havoc at the Zoo. The story is filled with whimsy, but young children who identify with the defenseless animals (left completely on their own with no teacher in sight) may be troubled by the aardvarks' lack of remorse. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)