cover image Boom Baby Boom Boom

Boom Baby Boom Boom

Margaret Mahy. Viking Children's Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-87314-2

The idea has enormous promise: a drum-playing Mama (""Beating those drums makes me feel at ease with the world"") remains oblivious while a virtual zoo parades through the house to share lunch with her baby. It's too bad, then, that MacCarthy and Mahy (17 Kings and 42 Elephants) fail to make the most of their tale's potential. Not that the book is without its bright spots: There is a catchy refrain that combines the sound of Mama's drums with the sound of each animal (""Boom-biddy-boom-biddy/ BAA-BAA-BAA!"" reads the page in which a sheep gobbles the baby's lettuce), while large-scale drawings (most of the pages are filled with only one character) are nicely balanced by their downy texture, which plays up the softness in each animal's fur or feathers. MacCarthy also adds some evocative fillips of dynamism to her pictures of Mama-a swirling skirt and swinging (literally) jewelry. Where the book fails is in the details: the pedestrian typography-a lost opportunity to enhance the novelty of the story and its refrain; a text that, outside of the refrain, lacks a sense of rhythm or drive; and a predominately reddish-purple palette that seems dull when it should register as rich. Ages 1-5. (Feb.)