cover image I'M A MANATEE


John Lithgow, , illus. by Ard Hoyt. . S&S, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85427-9

Adding to his oeuvre of rhyming song-book hybrids, Lithgow (The Remarkable Farkle McBride) heads under the sea to extol the joys of being a manatee. A boy dreams of taking on the form of this favorite sea animal—"No difference between my face and fann-atee,/ .../ The least appealing creature on the planet-ee." The youngster and his fellow manatees "nose along the cozy ocean floor" snacking on seaweed (it garnishes their "Raisin Bran-atee"), exploring new nooks and crannies and relishing their "world of silence and of sanity." Like Lithgow's previous works, this one takes a read-through or two to fully appreciate the rhythm and sometimes sophisticated tone; the CD recording brings it all home in fine fashion, however, and will soon have many adults and children singing along. Young readers will likely fancy the silliness of the wordplay here and will enjoy being challenged by the vocabulary, an aspect of the "stately" personality Lithgow gives his character ("No one near will ever hear me use profanity,/ Because a manatee/ Has his image to maintain"). Hoyt's (One-Dog Canoe) pencil-and-watercolor art possesses graceful, fluid lines befitting the underwater setting. The blubbery gray and wrinkly manatees convey a sweet and unexpected charm. The artist wittily extends the story, too, adding playful elements that enhance the dream-fantasy aspects of the tale and even making an anti-litter statement (the manatees give a careless boater a taste of his own medicine). Ages 5-8. (Sept.)

FYI:A CD containing Lithgow's vocals as well as an instrumental of the song is packaged with the book.