cover image RAISE THE ROOF!


Anastasia Suen, , illus. by Elwood H. Smith. . Viking, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-670-89282-2

In this cheery but tepid how-to book, step-by-step images and pared-down rhymes depict the construction of a house. First, a man and woman inspect blueprints while their yellow mutt diligently studies doghouse plans. Next, the dog (in a yellow hardhat) uses a cement mixer to pour the home's concrete foundation, and the humans (in overalls and red ball caps) erect the wood frame and roof. Together, the family finishes the wiring and plumbing, plasters the walls and hangs the doors; readers will notice that the childlike dog takes frequent breaks and is no expert at painting and tiling. Suen's (Loose Tooth!) verse provides an uncomplicated rhythm for the work: "Saw the wood,/ short and tall./ Hammer, hammer,/ hammer it all." Later exhortations to "Add more pipe./ Make it tall./ …/ Now paint and paint/ and paint it all" repeat simple words like "all" and "tall" that offer little information. Smith's (Bug Muldoon) self-explanatory images, drawn in a heavy, crayony line that looks like black grease pencil, clarify the uninspired language. Smith closely observes the tools and fixtures of a workshop, from table saws and trowels to tape measures and hinges. His dynamic characters have the jutting noses, rubbery limbs and round torsos of 1920s cartoons. Darts of sweat suggest how much effort they put into their work, and add vivacity to this elementary account of building. Ages 3-8. (Feb.)