cover image The Cataract of Lodore

The Cataract of Lodore

Robert Southey. Dial Books, $13.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1025-2

A famous waterfall in the British countryside takes on a life of its own in this rousing poem. Southey, former Poet Laureate of England, indulges his children by elaborately answering one of their favorite questions--``How does the water come down at Lodore?''--in vivid verse. The sound and motion of water spring forth from the pages as the river runs ``spouting and frisking'' and ``whizzing and hissing'' down the mountain. Gerstein's ( The New Creatures ; The Mountains of Tibet ) fanciful paintings are appropriately dominated by blue tones and frequent aqueous splashes of white paint. And in a whimsical design departure, Gerstein transforms several spreads to create the maximum vertical space, allowing characters and words to tumble along in a seemingly endless cascade. Although the kinetic artwork adds drama and interest, at points Southey's poem rattles on like a rhyming thesaurus. However, this title is a treasure for those fond of urbane wordplay. Even curious Anglophiles--older, perhaps, than the book's intended audience--may find this their cup of tea. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)