Nina Laden, . . Walker, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8780-4

This comical yet awkwardly realized volume imagines how four circus clowns, their elephant and their dog pass their downtime, including forays to beach and desert destinations. Each spread poses queries that demand a close look at the images, which are a muddle of intense colors and cutout photos. One page pictures a five-star resort next to a brick tenement with an "Always Vacant" sign: "Along the way,/ Where do they stay?/ In a fancy hotel/ Or a bad one that smells?" The answer is neither, as it turns out. Four pairs of floppy shoes rest outside a patched "Little Top" tent, suggesting that the clowns bring their own accommodations. Laden's (Bad Dog) jokes are in the details. At the shore, a girl clown buries the elephant in the sand while her brother digs for seashells and unearths a cell phone. Their father sips lemonade from a water-cooler while their mother covers her shell-white face with "clown tan" (they never remove their red noses or makeup). Before returning home, the group finds the treasure of "Billy the Kidder," drops by Las Vegas, and gets "stuck in traffic" when a glue truck tips over. Laden's book is chockablock with tepid sight gags, but her uneven rhymes and the garish colors and clutter of some of the collages are off-putting. Clowns are known for organized chaos, and this book needs better choreography. Ages 4-8. (May)