cover image NONSENSE!


Edward Lear, , illus. by Valorie Fisher. . Atheneum/Schwartz, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86380-6

Full of visual wit and sparkling good humor, Fisher's illustrations offer a fresh view of Lear's limericks. Appropriately eschewing the poet's more ribald offerings, Fisher selects verses that will appeal to a young reader's love for the ridiculous, and her inspired artwork embellishes the preposterous comedy at every turn. A young lady from Welling fishes with her toes as she plays a harp, while an old man from Dumbree serves tea to a parliament of owls. Like the striped and patterned leaves of a wallpaper book, the left-hand pages set off each verse with a scrolled black, silent movie-style border. The dark font set on a solid background makes the text pop against the riot of color that surrounds it. Opposite, Fisher builds on the style she established with Ellsworth's Extraordinary Electric Ears with her full-bleed illustrations; she photographs diorama-like scenes that combine Victorian cartoons, newspapers, signs and etchings, alongside captivating characters with whimsical expressions. At the book's close, Fisher includes a brief bio of Lear and a map of the places named in the rhymes as well as of personal significance to the poet; definitions of more unusual words appear as signposts, labels and the like. A pert lady "whose shoe-strings were seldom untied" and who "frequently walked about Rhyde," for instance, sports a dress whose ribbons define the words "seldom ~ not very often" and "frequently ~ very often." Youngsters will be entranced ("Entranced ~ filled with delight and wonder") by this perfectly nonsensical and inventively imagined volume. Ages 4-9. (Nov.)