cover image The Wonderful Happens

The Wonderful Happens

Cynthia Rylant. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83177-5

Like the lyrics to The Sound of Music's ""My Favorite Things,"" Rylant's picture-book list of what is wonderful in the world includes both raindrops and roses. The sweet, rhythmic text is both cheery and unabashedly sentimental. It begins with basic bread: ""In a little kitchen/ someone butters bread,/ wonderful bread./ the earth grew wheat,/ the wheat made flour,/ and the wonderful happened:/ bread."" Rylant sets up a premise that conveys nature's cause and effect: bread comes from flour, birds from eggs, roses from seeds. Dowley frames her illustrations with homey, quiltlike borders in simple flowered or geometric patterns. Branches of a peach tree teem with bees, a butterfly and a clone of the bright bluebird seen in Disney's Cinderella. Then abruptly, in the middle of a full-bleed spread of a blue sky dotted with a single yellow star, the text asks, ""Did you know/ there was a time/ when you weren't anywhere?"" Setting aside how puzzling this question might be to a child and that her answer goes against the simple logic of the first three-quarters of the book, Rylant suggests that children just happen (""you happened/ like bread, like a bird, like rain,/.../ the wonderful happened,/ the wonderful is you/ growing like a red red rose."" Unfortunately, despite its feel-good appeal and images, the book lacks a coherent vision. All ages. (Nov.)