cover image Mockingbird


Allan Ahlberg. Candlewick Press (MA), $14.99 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0439-4

In Ahlberg's (the Jolly Postman books) warm variation on the traditional ""Hush, Little Baby"" lullaby, an entire family tries to please its youngest member. Here the gifts that turn out to be lemons--mockingbird, pedal truck, Rover (no diamond ring in this version)--don't all come from Mama; in fact, the consolation (yet most successful) prize turns out to be a birthday cake baked by Papa. Howard's (A Year in the City) golden-hued, thoughtfully detailed illustrations create a turn-of-the-century setting. The cozy interiors, cunning toys, the big floppy bows in one girl's hair and the jelly roll at tea are sweetly nostalgic, but what is most striking about the artwork is the liveliness of its inhabitants. Not only are the scenes animated, but each character's face is expressive; each seems to have his or her own thoughts. Even though the presents don't all work out, children are likely to think this baby pretty lucky. Ages 3-6. (Aug.)