cover image Riddle-Icious


J. Patrick Lewis. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-679-84011-4

Although readers new to riddling may require some help grasping the concept here, this collection of 28 rhymes, near-rhymes and free verse will initiate them merrily. Presented without introduction, each of Lewis's (The Fat-Cats at Sea) poems challenges the reader to identify its subject (e.g., ""This Sky-High Pirate Steals Gold From The Sun, Hides Moon-Silver, Captures Stars, One By One"" turns out to be a cloud). Clues from debut artist Tilley's droll illustrations help decipher the wordplay. When Lewis writes, ""The tall handsome lady/ On Uncle Sam's porch/ Stands still as a statue/ Holding a torch,"" the giveaways include Tilley's spread of Lady Liberty serving sandwiches to Abe Lincoln and Betsy Ross. At the bottom of the page, the answer appears in reverse type. While Lewis artfully poses his riddles (a TV ""Has no tongue but talks all day""; a turtle is ""a helmet on the ground""), Tilley's challenge is to make her ink-and-watercolor drawings as general as the verse itself. She rises to the occasion handily-although her pictures contain the answer to the riddle, she has tweaked her compositions with a disarming eccentricity. Pumpkins tango; an assembly line of cows bottles milk; potatoes compete in a potato-sack race. Readers are likely to return to these clever spreads even after they've solved all the puzzles. Ages 3-8. (Apr.)