cover image Matepo


Angela McAllister. Dial Books, $12.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-0838-9

Kindhearted Matepo the monkey wants nothing more than to bring home some fruit ``as a present for his mother,'' but he gets caught up in one situation after another; each involves a trade of goods. A sympathetic snake named Ssurstet starts the chain reaction by giving Matepo a necklace to replace his fruit, lost in a fall. After that, there are porcupine quills, tailfeathers and--finally--an armload of ``sweet nanas, plump yamas and fragrant juleberries'' to take to mother. Watercolors with a batik look introduce the reader to Matepo's world, and a vibrant one it is, with borders above and below the primary illustrations that echo an element of the story. McAllister's ( Snail's Birthday Problem ) fanciful character names (Pati-pol-pol the parrot, Quilla the porcupine) are perfectly suited to Newton's ( Of Pelicans and Pussycats ) expressive creatures. The book's bold design--tropical colors balanced with airy white space--creates a glorious environment for this story of animal cooperation on a jaunty jungle junket. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)