Jack Prelutsky, , illus. by Petra Mathers. . HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $16.95 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16719-6

Prelutsky (Awful Ogre's Awful Day) trades his usual giddy hilarity for a tone of gentler glee in this collection of verse. Loosely knit together by U.S. geography, the 28 poems alight everywhere from Tuscaloosa to El Paso, Winnemucca to the Grand Canyon. In the Pacific Northwest, for instance, "Seattle is lovely,/ but I cannot lie—/ without an umbrella/ it's hard to stay dry." The rhymes flow easily, set to a consistently bouncy beat that makes reading them aloud effortless ("Baby in a high chair,/ baby in a bib,/ baby in a stroller,/ baby in a crib"). Mathers's (Lottie's New Beach Towel) watercolors exude a puckish charm well-matched to the nimble wordplay, and she lets loose a menagerie of her trademark sprightly animals, often fleshing out the situations in the poems. In "Carpenter, Carpenter," for instance, a mouse couple enlists the help of a builder to construct their house for the price of a cheese; the artist completes the tale by showing the couple, now with two additions, enjoying the reward with the carpenter at their kitchen table, their completed home emulating the shape and color of the prize cheese. In another, "There Was a Tiny Baker," Mathers chronicles the baker's day from sun-up to day's end, as he shares a cookie with his pet mouse. There's plenty of zip in this nifty outing. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)