cover image Just in Case

Just in Case

Judith Viorst, , illus. by Diana Cain Bluthenthal. . Atheneum/Seo, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87164-1

Viorst's (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day ) jaunty tale introduces an imaginative, somewhat anxious boy who prepares for nearly any contingency. "Charlie knows how to be ready. And Charlie likes to be ready, Just in case ." Just in case it rains hard inside his house, he's ready with boots, slicker, umbrella and inflatable boat; just in case a bossy sitter arrives, he's "going to make her not glad" that she came, by washing his feet in the toilet and painting his face green. The scenarios become increasingly outlandish (he digs a pit as a trap in case a lion escapes from the zoo, and brings oars to the beach so he can row himself back to shore if a mermaid pulls him out to sea). In a satisfying about-face, Charlie awakens one day feeling sad that "the whole wide world forgot about his birthday"; when friends surprise him with gifts, he "isn't the slightest bit ready, But maybe not being ready is sometimes okay." Playful repetition and varying font sizes make for amusing emphasis, and a sly uncertainty as to whether any of these hypotheticals came to pass, add to the whimsy. Featuring an intriguing array of fabrics and textures, Bluthenthal's (I'm Not Invited? ) mixed-media art comically chronicles the actual (or imagined) antics of Charlie and his omnipresent pooch. Ages 3-7. (Jan.)