cover image BILLY'S BUCKET


Kes Gray, , illus. by Garry Parsons. . Candlewick, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2127-8

All Billy wants for his birthday is a bucket. After a trip to Buckets R Us, ("That's the one I want... 19 shelves up, 78 across from the left!"), Billy fills his pail with water; inside he spies sharks, mermaids and divers. Parsons's (Digging for Dinosaurs) spunky stylized acrylics let Billy's visions appear to the audience, but not to Billy's slightly smug parents. Their condescending winks and teasing garner readers' sympathy for Billy. Vindication is inevitable: even though Billy vehemently warns his parents not to use his bucket, his dad borrows it to wash the car—and finds his car flattened by a grinning, mammoth whale. "It took Billy's mom and dad six hours, three fire engines, four cranes, and a shoehorn to get the whale back into the bucket. They never ever borrowed Billy's bucket again." Gray (Eat Your Peas) builds the story's tension skillfully, letting his relatively straightfaced delivery counterpoint the rib-tickling exaggeration found in the zany paintings. The illustrator contrasts Billy's bounteous underwater world with the parents' minimalist living room. Tilting lamps, distorted perspectives and a mix of objects fully rendered and others merely suggested, clearly announce that the boring old rules of physics do not apply. Imaginative youngsters will find kinship here, and cheer the parents' comical comeuppance. Ages 3-6. (June)