cover image Happy Harry’s Café

Happy Harry’s Café

Michael Rosen, illus. by Richard Holland. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6239-4

Rosen writes silly, loose-limbed wordplay for young audiences; insofar as this story is a story, it’s a nod to an old Yiddish joke about a disgruntled restaurant customer. Mostly, though, it’s a repeated chant, as visitors arrive at Harry the dog’s cafe, each with his or her own personality quirk. “Here’s Ryan the lion. He’s in a rush. He’s Rushing Ryan.” Each animal is calmed in turn by phlegmatic Harry: “Take it easy, Ryan,” says Harry. Soft charcoal lines help Holland’s (Mary’s Penny) matte mixed-media artwork feel as mellow as Harry (especially compared to the chunky typefaces that make Rosen’s prose resemble a kind of concrete poetry). Matt the Cat complains, “Hey, Harry. The soup’s no good. You come and try it, Harry.” “Hey, Matt,” says Harry. “There’s no spoon. You haven’t got a spoon.” Harry and Matt sing a short song (“If you don’t have a spoon, you can’t taste the soup. If you can’t taste the soup, the soup’s no good”), and that’s it. Although it may sound daft to grownups, Rosen’s sense of what children like is often spot on. Ages 3–5. (Oct.)