cover image The Simple People

The Simple People

Tedd Arnold. Dial Books, $14 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1012-2

This fable with classic overtones employs sensory imagery and spatial concepts to transport the reader to the land and culture of the simple people. Balmy winds and lush vegetation allow the inhabitants to live in joy and leisure, singing songs and eating fruit. When playful Node builds a square wooden structure, Bog helps him prop it up on the ground. Soon the whole community is involved--the square becomes a window, a stone wall and a roof are added, and the window is inadvertently covered over. Panic ensues as the simple folk are overcome with a fire's fumes and a longing for their sweet green earth. The people ultimately break free when the wind whispers through a crack in the wall and life becomes ``simple once more.'' Shachat's ( Mommy Doesn't Know My Name ) chunky, truncated figures and spare, stylized backgrounds are perfectly matched with Arnold's ( The Signmaker's Assistant ; No Jumping on the Bed ) thought-provoking story--though the author's bleak view of humanity seems overly advanced for the intended audience. Still, various points here may spark discussions of simple vs. complex, and about the notion of progress. Ages 4-8. (June)