cover image Scarlette Beane

Scarlette Beane

Karen Wallace. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2475-4

First-time picture book artist Berkeley makes a splashy debut with a series of puckish acrylics that bring to mind Mark Teague's artwork, for Wallace's (Think of an Eel) sprightly story of an unusual girl. Born with a face ""as red as a beet,"" Scarlette Beane possesses not only a green thumb, but green fingertips as well. Heedless of their daughter's odd appearance, her doting parents foresee a bright future (""She will grow tall and strong and do something wonderful,"" predicts her mother), and indeed, Scarlette has an affinity for gardening that's nothing short of magical. Her fingertips glow and flash and sparkle when she digs in the earth, and her first garden sprouts carrots ""as huge as tree trunks"" and parsley ""as thick as a jungle."" Her pi ce de r sistance is a vegetable castle, a vast improvement on their cozy garden shed home. Wallace spins this winsome tale with picturesque similes (""The moon hung like a pearl in the sky""), while Berkeley goes to town with the garden motif. From a baby blanket decorated with carrots and pea pods to a bed whose four posts support potted plants, he ties in the story's overriding theme with ingenuity, and his characters, with their perpetually surprised expressions and eccentric hairstyles, inject the pages with a droll edginess. Ages 3-7. (Mar.)