cover image Once Upon a Time This Morning

Once Upon a Time This Morning

Anne F. Rockwell. Greenwillow Books, $15 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14706-8

In these 10 brief snippets designed for reading aloud to the very young, Rockwell (The Robber Baby) sets out to capture small children's everyday experiences and feelings. But in her quest to portray the ordinary, she turns out tales that are, unfortunately, just that. Some of the entries cozily impart a reassuring message: left with a sitter, a boy forgets to give his mother a kiss, but she compensates with a large kiss and hug upon her return. A couple of vignettes have unrealistic, overstated endings: after looking all over the house, a girl finds her lost stuffed bunny in the toy chest and ""from that day on her bunny was never lost again."" Similarly, a boy who never shares learns, in one split second, never to say ""Mine!"" again. Each entry occupies only two pages, and works best if read singly rather than serially-the sweetness of the writing turns to blandness when the stories are taken in one gulp. The use of ""little boy"" and ""little girl"" in place of character names also makes the stories run together if absorbed in a single sitting. A welcoming design playfully positions Stevenson's (the Henry and Mudge books) characteristically cheerful spot art throughout the text. Featuring a cast of grinning kids in exaggerated but familiar scenarios, these acrylic and ink pictures add some needed whimsy. Ages 2-up. (Mar.)