cover image Angel Baby

Angel Baby

Pat Cummings. HarperCollins, $16.99 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14821-8

Despite the proclamations of their mother, Amanda Lynne's baby brother is hardly an ""angel."" Cummings (Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon!) makes this irony perfectly clear in her large-scale, brightly hued art, rendered in gouache, watercolor and colored pencil. Food and juice fly off the boy's high-chair tray, a houseplant and a bowl of cat food tumble over as he careens past them, and waves of water spill from his bath. These playful images contradict rhymed couplets in which the mother gives her daughter directions in overseeing his care. ""Amanda Lynne, let's get him dressed./ Shoes and socks and all the rest./ Be gentle, hold him carefully./ What an angel he can be!"" reads the text as the accompanying illustration shows the boy resisting his sister's help and taunting the cat with his shoestring. The spreads also convey subtler signs of his misdeeds: the cat is tangled in a garden hose that moments before had been coiled neatly in the grass; there are telltale handprints on this same pet long after paint has been washed off the child's hands. Though both the rhythm and rhyme scheme are at times strained, readers will be pleasantly distracted by the goings-on in the pictures. Those who have rolled their eyes while listening to a parent's praise of a less-than-saintly younger sibling will appreciate the humor of this light tale. Ages 3-up. (May)