cover image Kindle Me a Riddle: A Pioneer Story

Kindle Me a Riddle: A Pioneer Story

Roberta Karim. Greenwillow Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16203-0

In this chipper and informative picture book, Karim (Mandy Sue Day) and Andersen (Seven Brave Women) transport readers to 1850s Utah for a glimpse at family life in a brave new world. Constance feels terrible that she let the fire in the hearth die, and as she and her father bring home coals from a neighbor's fire, Papa cheers her with a riddle: ""What is a wagon road before it's a wagon road?... It was a buffalo trail long and deep!"" Intrigued, Constance, Papa, Mama and Jack exchange similar riddles throughout the day, woven with seeming spontaneity into their conversation. Aside from entertaining the family, the guessing game offers readers insight into the rhythms of another century. Readers learn, for example, that Contance's lunch basket was once ""saplings that leaned in the wind"" and that the family fireplace was constructed from ""warm shiny stones in the bubbling stream."" Andersen matches Karim's homespun, image-rich language with vibrant, airy scenes of a cozy, well-appointed log cabin and rolling countryside amply dotted with trees. She divides each spread into a column of text brightened by spot art (typically showing the ""answer"" to the riddle), and a three-quarter-spread painting. Her motion-filled oils are often bathed in soft purples and pinks or the inky blue of a clear night sky. A scene of the whole family dancing in the kitchen, ""circling like cyclones,"" is particularly memorable. As a bonus, four pages of illustrated capsules at the end of the book further detail ""The Life of a Pioneer Family."" Ages 5-up. (Aug.)