cover image All God's Critters

All God's Critters

Bill Staines, , illus. by Kadir Nelson. . Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (36pp) ISBN 978-0-689-86959-4

As every alumni of children's chapel can attest, this vacation Bible school favorite is about the most fun you can have in church. Nelson (Coretta Scott , reviewed Dec. 15), taking a break from a recent string of more sober topics, lets loose with high-spirited illustrations that have tons of kid appeal. Bow-tied dogs and cats sing alongside a Buddha-bellied hippopotamus, a frog, a fox and plenty of feathered friends, all of which have the solid, rounded forms of favorite toys. The red velvet drapes that serve as endpapers suggest the performance aspect, and the large trim size invites sing-alongs (although the dark font against dark backgrounds on a few spreads is difficult to read). The visual pacing reveals knowledge of how the song works in real life: the double spread with just one line of text, “And the old cow just goes, 'Mooooo,' ” will allow the audience to stretch out the vowel for the customary full minute or so before it's necessary to turn the page. A gatefold opens to reveal the animals in kick-line formation and full-throated bliss. The last two pages contain the sheet music, helpful as this energetic book ought to find a place in just about every choir. Ages 5–8. (Jan.)