cover image Hog Music

Hog Music

Mary-Claire Helldorfer, M. C. Helldorfer. Viking Children's Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87182-7

Jaunty watercolor and gouache illustrations on parchment paper set the tone for this rollicking 1840s adventure tale of a birthday present gone astray. As young Lucy's family prepares to head West to Illinois, Aunt Liza refuses to go with them. ""Nothing but hog music out there,"" she grumbles. Some months later, the woman packs ""a plain straw hat in a plain wooden box"" for Lucy's birthday, and sends it on its way with a traveling friend. When the hatbox bounces off the stagecoach, the gift falls into the hands of various characters, each of whom contributes something to the box and simultaneously fills in details of daily life (a portrait artist adds a miniature painting of his grandmother's pet hog, a farm boy pops in a clay marble, etc.). Eventually, the hatbox reaches a puzzled Lucy and her family. When Lucy writes a thank-you note back, Aunt Liza, beguiled by Lucy's talk not of hogs, but of prairie grass and ""wind music,"" heads West for a happy reunion. Helldorfer (Phoebe and the River Flute) adopts a folksy tone for her spry story (""Whooeeee! That stagecoach headed westDand up and down and left and right"") and serves up artful images (""the moon rising like a shiny supper plate over the mountains""). Schindler's (A Big Cheese for the White House) artwork wrings the most out of the tale's humorous elements (such as vignettes of seven men toe-tapping at dance lessons, then sleeping side by side in front of a roaring fire), while maintaining the precision of miniatures, and he fleshes out the scenes with an abundance of period particulars. Readers will be shouting ""Westward Ho!"" right along with Aunt Liza. Ages 3-8. (May)