cover image The Ladder

The Ladder

Halfdan Rasmussen. Candlewick Press (MA), $17.99 (62pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2282-4

Danish poet Rasmussen's charming, rather haunting tale in rhyming couplets opens as a carpenter climbs a ladder he built and disappears into the blue. Bereft of its owner, the ladder stumps off into the countryside (""Then it thought that it would be/ remarkable to go and see/ what's in the great wide world out there/ to see, if you go anywhere""). Various characters take the ladder's height and attractive red rungs as invitations to climb into the sky. These wild events use to the fullest not only the powers of illustrator Pratt (The Very Busy Life of Olaf and Venus), but several gatefolds that fully exploit the views of ascending brass bands and big luxury cars as they make their way up the ladder into the heavens. Rasmussen's tongue-in-cheek verse renders these vertical trips matter-of-factly: ""With a root-toot-toot and a rat-tat-tatter/ they marched right to the foot of the ladder."" Just as the ladder begins to worry about the effect he has on the people he meets (""This isn't normal. I must stop/ folks from jumping off my top!"") a meteorological event intervenes and restores the whole crowd to earth (including the carpenter, who reclaims his ladder and disappears without a word). While those who prefer explanations and sensible endings may be left puzzled, most will be beguiled by the vision of an upside-down world in which humans do nonsensical things, leaving inanimate objects to reflect upon them. Ages 4-7.