cover image Oink?


Margie Palatini. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86258-8

With understated humor and a somewhat labored plot, the team behind Moosetache and Bad Boys introduces Joseph and Thomas, a pair of happy, contented pigs whose slobby behavior disturbs the rest of the barnyard. "" 'That place is a pig sty,' clucks one hen to the other. 'Disgraceful.' "" Cole's skilled use of line and penchant for humor conveys the sleepy pigs' unperturbed personalities as he contrasts them with the remaining cast-an outraged vegetarian rabbit, a spick-and-span duck wielding a bar of soap, and the tidy hens whose feathers are decidedly ruffled. Even though the sly oinkers' conversation is minimal (they say only, ""Oink"" or ""Oink?""), Cole's drawings communicate their meaning with droll expressions. The determined animals try to teach the sloppy pair how to spruce up, but Joseph and Thomas just can't seem to get the hang of it. The hens end up painting the fence, the rabbit picks the veggies, and the duck digs a hole for a bathtub. Palatini includes plenty of punchy verbs to describe each task the pigs are supposed to learn. The rabbit's mantra, ""Hip. Hop. Hip. Hop. Pull. Pull. Pull,"" morphs into the pigs' translation, ""Tramp. Stamp. Tramp. Stamp. Yank. Yank. Squash."" The exhausted animals laugh together at their own cleverness-until they take a second look at the munching, chuckling pigs, and realize the last laugh is definitely on them. Ages 4-8.