cover image John Willy and Freddy McGee

John Willy and Freddy McGee

Holly Meade. Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5033-7

With handsome large-scale gouache and cut-paper pictures, the Caldecott Honor illustrator (Hush! A Thai Lullaby) sends the title characters, two bored pet guinea pigs who escape from their cage, on an eventful romp through the house. They make straight for the pool table. As Meade's playfully repetitive narrative explains, ""Guinea pigs don't care at all about playing pool. They DO care about scurrying around and around in tunnels. They liked being inside the pool table. They liked it a lot."" After the household cat (introduced in the art only) rolls balls through the table's pockets and into the guinea pigs' crawl space, the two scamper back to their cage, evidently relieved to be ""home at last"" (or not--the ending literally leaves the door open for another adventure). Readers will happily trace the adventurous protagonists' path in the lighthearted artwork. Meade's palette changes with virtually every spread, as each room in the house has a different color scheme. The pool-table sequence is particularly inspired, with the ""tunnels"" laid out against black backdrops while colored, oversize type supplies sound effects (""tap... bonkity-bonk!""). Susan L. Roth's Cinammon's Day Out (reviewed June 15), offers a similar plot featuring a roving gerbil; there the treatment is a bit more tender. This one, by contrast, has a mischievous streak. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)