cover image WHY DO KITTENS PURR?


Marion Dane Bauer, , illus. by Henry Cole. . S&S, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84179-8

A boy's real and imaginary worlds merge in this simple but intriguing picture book. As the narrator asks why various animals (and, eventually, the moon and the sun) behave as they do, each makes an appearance in his house. "Why do spiders spin?/ To make a plate/ to keep their dinner in," writes Bauer (My Mother Is Mine; Runt, reviewed Oct. 14). Cole's (Some Smug Slug) acrylic and pencil drawings transform a dining room wall into a green field of sunflowers across which stretches a web. The juxtaposition of the real and the imagined seems both natural and unexpected at the same time. The boy's chair and bedroom dresser sit atop a lush grass lawn as if it were a commonplace arrangement for the line, "So why do bees buzz? Just because!" Cole varies the perspective, angles and colors of each illustration. The boy watches through staircase spindles as green frogs leap down stairs strewn with lily pads. A black bear's snow-covered lair appears next to an overstuffed chair. The gentle text combines sweetness with humor, but the verses seem randomly placed, leaching the narrative tension. While most of the stanzas are cleverly conceived, a forced rhyme or change in rhythm occasionally detracts from the overall quality of the verse. It is Cole's scruffy-haired boy who will most spark readers' curiosity and fancy. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)