cover image Country Fair

Country Fair

Elisha Cooper. Greenwillow Books, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15531-5

The sights, smells and tastes of a country fair take center stage in this fresh-as-homegrown-tomatoes small-format picture book. With an understated, image-laden text and an array of evocative watercolor-and-pencil spot illustrations, Cooper (A Year in New York) introduces a light and airy world of country neighbors, prize-winning animals and just-baked pies. Fair-goers while away the day admiring giant pumpkins, cheering at the tractor-pull contest and eating hot dogs and fried dough. Cooper's hand-lettered words keep pace with the action as they meander, curve and even loop-the-loop their way around striped tents, a horse snacking on a newspaper and the Great Duck Race (won by the only duck who goes the right way). Ripe descriptions, e.g., shorn sheep that look ""clean and pink and naked, as if they've just stepped out of the shower and can't find their towels,"" immerse young readers in the rural atmosphere. Throughout, Cooper scribbles tiny notes to himself regarding the art, giving the pages the feel of a sketchbook. He creates an actively imaginative visual experience by means of simple pencil lines and wisps of painted color: while illustrations suggest different animals, people and objects, kids are left to picture any finer details (e.g. facial features) on their own. A blue-ribbon effort. Ages 4-up. (Aug.)