cover image Celeste: A Day in the Park

Celeste: A Day in the Park

Martin Matje. Atheneum Books, $12 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-82100-4

Like Arthur Yorinks's Harry and Lulu, which Matje illustrated, this appealingly drawn but awkward tale features a temperamental girl and her stuffed-animal sidekick. Celeste and her teddy bear, Tim, want to escape the traffic and towering gray buildings of their ""very big, very noisy city."" Celeste packs a whimsical picnic of ""fresh marshmallow juice and two large vanilla cucumber sandwiches,"" and the two resolutely march to a placid city park. However, the day and the plot go amiss when a duck steals a sandwich, and Celeste, pursuing the duck, crashes into a hulking policeman. Tiny Celeste cowers in front of the balloon-shaped cop, who is assumed to be an enemy, not a protector (""You can fight a dishonest duck BUT you can't go up against the law""). Meanwhile Tim strong-arms the duck into good behavior and even engineers a friendship by promising the duck his favorite sandwich (chocolate and sausage, to be prepared by Celeste). The elegantly simple illustrations, aided by an agile mix of hand lettering and mechanical type, flow like animated cartoons, full of motion and feeling. With seeming effortlessness they supply this petite volume with the raffish and child-friendly wit that's missing from the text. Ages 3-7. (May)