cover image Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo

Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo

Diane de Groat. HarperCollins, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16544-4

As in her prior tales starring Gilbert, deGroat's (Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet; Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink) latest title and plot are both sky-high in kid appeal. The amiable young opossum sings this take-off on the birthday tune as his mother drives him home from the store, where he has spitefully chosen a frying pan as a gift for Lewis, the class bully. Lewis has informed Gilbert that he received a birthday party invitation only because his mother made him send one to all the boys in the class (""And you better bring me a present, too, if you want any cake and ice cream,"" sneers the birthday boy). Readers, privy to Lewis's lunchroom and playground slights to earnest Gilbert, will likely applaud this choice of gift--until Lewis has a change of heart. DeGroat's watercolors capture Gilbert's changing moods perfectly: readers will especially feel for Gilbert as he makes eye contact with them, conveying sheer panic when gift-opening time arrives, dread when Lewis prepares to unwrap his present and tremendous relief when he realizes that Mom's surreptitious substitution for the frying pan has saved the day. With its credible take on kids' emotions and social exchanges, this wry tale sends a useful message to youngsters on both the giving and receiving ends of bullying. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)