Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!
Cari Best, DK Publishing. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2622-2
Best (Last Licks) and Potter (When Agnes Caws) join their considerable talents for a not-to-be-missed borscht-and-blintzes birthday party for a hardworking Russian grandmother. The tenants in Sara's apartment building have all been invited to Grandma Catherine's party, and Grandma has insisted there be no presents. Sara (along with the neighbors) decides to study Grandma so she can think up the perfect ""no present."" Over the course of the week, Grandma plays a Russian clapping song to quiet Mary Caruso's baby, Mimmo; bakes a sardine pie for Mr. Minsky's cat; and listens as Sara recites her poems. Best's folksy tale is freckled with offbeat imagery (an ""alphabet moon"" describes a C-shaped crescent) and appealing human and animal characters. Potter's delectably skewed watercolors extend the intimacy of Best's narrative and capture the tender bond between Sara and Grandma. Patterns of flowers and stripes, stars and polka dots run riot on dresses, rugs and even Grandma's underpants (""as big as tents and as loud as six firecrackers on the Fourth of July""). Such details as Russian nesting dolls, Grandma's ""saving jars"" and short Russian phrases followed by their English equivalents, contrasting with the contemporary lifestyles of the building residents, heighten the sense of two worlds harmoniously coexisting. Three cheers indeed! Ages 4-8. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000