cover image Bat in the Dining Room

Bat in the Dining Room

Dragonwagon Crescent. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5007-8

In this uneven picture book, a bat strays into a lakeside resort and vacationers run for cover. All but one observant girl, that is, who while others are desperately plotting (the Department of Wildlife arrives with a stun gun, a boy calls out, ""Shoot it! Hit it! Throw a knife!""), quietly opens an emergency exit and sets the bat free. Dragonwagon (Home Place) has some nice moments; her free-flowing poem highlights the comic melodrama (""babies bursting into tears/ at all the screaming clutching fears/ of parents cousins uncles aunts"") as well as its moments of beauty (the freed bat is ""a moving breeze of joy against the sky""). But the sporadic rhyme schemes (e.g., some verses rhyme in couplets, others have only one rhyme in eight to nine lines), changing rhythm scans (e.g., just as a pattern emerges, it changes again) and a meandering middle section may make it hard for some readers to stick with. Schindler's (Big Pumpkin) understated colored pencil and watercolor illustrations send up stuffy Adirondack-style family vacations, from birch deck railings to bow-tied men and women sporting improbable hairdos. The visual asides will no doubt be lost on the younger set, but adults will likely have a good chuckle. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)