cover image SQUEAL AND SQUAWK: Barnyard Talk


Susan Pearson, , illus. by David Slonim. . Cavendish, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7614-5160-0

An unusual combination of Looney Tunes–type action mixed with a deft use of line and color, Slonim's (Moishe's Miracle ) ink and acrylic illustrations provide plenty of humor in this uneven volume. The poem "Mad Magog," for example, features a cow-chasing goose, a premise Slonim exploits by picturing the hapless cow trying to climb a telephone pole to escape. In "Love," a rooster "with terrible luck/ has fallen in love with a duck," and he's shown forlornly holding a bouquet of flowers as the long-lashed duck swims far across the spread. While Pearson (The Drowsy Hours ) sometimes stumbles in meter, the content of her limericks and couplets can be amusingly offbeat. In "Chuck's Duck," a daffy quacker dances to the farmer's saxophone playing a "Whack/ thwack/ maniac/ Hackensack beat." The human figures are more cartoonlike and less distinctive, but each illustration offers a plethora of witty animal characters. A poem that rhythmically recites various kinds of chickens ("Chantecler and Delaware,/ Jersey Giant, Buckeye, Brahma") contains a breed-appropriate bevy of dancing, strutting fowls—along with a roasted chicken on a plate. The artwork provides a visual story frame for the poems, beginning with a sleepless child who initially shines a flashlight on the squawking animals in the barn. The fitting final image presents the child slumbering atop a puppy-litter-style tangle of cows and chickens in the blue moonlight. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)