cover image The Mud Flat Olympics

The Mud Flat Olympics

James Stevenson. Greenwillow Books, $15 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12923-1

Neither as affecting as Stevenson's Grandaddy's Place or Grandaddy & Janetta nor as memorable as his warm reminiscences of childhood (Don't You Know There's a War On?) nor as laugh-aloud funny as his whimsical The Flying Acorns, this good-natured chapter book is still an excellent choice for beginning readers. The annual Olympic games are being held on the mud flat, and the contestants are amiable but determined to win. The moles Kevin and Kimberly both set their sights on the Deepest Hole Contest (after burrowing underground, he reports that he encountered hot lava; she bests him with her tale of reaching China). The Smelliest Skunk Contest, the All-Snail High Hurdles and the River-cross Freestyle follow-all with unexpected results. Stevenson's animal athletes are a likable lot; even a wily crocodile who tries to win the swimming race by biting a rival makes amends in the end. The humor is subtle, delivered largely through understated dialogue and brief, pert sentences, and, of course, through Stevenson's characteristically droll watercolor-and-black-pen illustrations. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)