cover image What a Wonderful World

What a Wonderful World

George David Weiss. Atheneum Books, $18.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80087-0

Launching off from the lyrics immortalized by Louis Armstrong, Bryan (The Story of Thunder and Lightning) spins a utopian confection of racial harmony and collaboration. The song extols the pleasures of this ``wonderful world'': ``I hear babies cry, I watch them grow./ They'll learn much more than I'll ever know,/ and I think to myself, `What a wonderful world.'"" Bryan illustrates the lyrics by means of a puppet show performed by a cross-cultural group of children and a smiling black man with a trumpet (presiding adults will have to identify the figure as Armstrong; there's not even an explanatory note in the book). Fittingly, Bryan's gouache and tempera paints are as bright and varied as a rainbow, but even with the lyrics they don't tell a coherent story. Bursting with its upbeat message, this seems like a picture-book cross between ``Up with People'' and ``It's a Small World.'' Ages 4-8. (Mar.)