Jack Prelutsky, , illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky. . HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-07778-5

Prelutsky uncorks his latest collection of light verse, a divinely wretched celebration of subversity. Every detail of Awful Ogre's day offers possibility for gross-outs, from sunup ("I flick aside the lizard/ Clinging grimly to my chin,/ And now I feel I'm ready/ For my morning to begin") to sundown (a sly swat at Goodnight Moon as Awful Ogre drifts off to sleep with "Good night to furtive spiders/ That lurk in murky wells./ Good night to loathsome vermin/ With nauseating smells"). Whether he's writing a love letter to an ogress ("I long for the sight/ Of your craggy gray face,/ The might of your bone-breaking,/ Painful embrace") or puttering in the garden ("I'm growing carnivorous roses/ And oceans of overblown mold"), Awful Ogre proves an ideal agent for Prelutsky's oversize humor. Switching gears from the lushness of his Caldecott-winning Rapunzel, repeat collaborator Zelinsky presents Awful Ogre as a grotesque but goofy innocent, sillier than he is sinister. Awful may have only one eye and green hair, and a skunk might indeed curl up in his left nostril, yet he has a childlike sweetness as he dances (shown in a series of a dozen panels) or snuggles up in bed with his cactus. A virtuoso performance by two master funny-bone-ticklers. Ages 6-up. (Sept.)