cover image The New Vestments

The New Vestments

Edward Lear. Simon & Schuster, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-671-50089-4

Lear's century-old wordplay thrives in this eye-catching book. An ``Old Man'' fashions ``new vestments'' from odd (but organic) material: ``His shirt was made up of no end of dead Mice,/ The warmth of whose skins was quite fluffy and nice''; his other apparel includes pork chops, pancakes and, ``as a screen from bad weather/ A cloak of green Cabbage-leaves stitched all together.'' When the hapless designer steps outdoors to parade his threads, a hungry host of ``Beasticles, Birdlings, and Boys'' descends upon him and devours the whole ensemble. McGraw (Hippity Hop, Frog on Top; Fish Story) answers Lear's bizarrerie with riotous gouaches: the protagonist's face, for example, is a multihued checkerboard with superimposed eyes, mouth and mustache. Each composition is spattered with transparent color, and the bright, splashed paint adds to the overall liveliness. The dramatic effect of the many black backgrounds is leavened by a playful type design that sends the lines of Lear's verse across the spreads in cheerful, loopy arcs. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)