cover image Belly Button Boy

Belly Button Boy

. Dial Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2542-3

Maloney and Zekauskas's (The Magic Hockey Stick) droll delivery enlivens a familiar premise about a reluctant bather who finds a seed sprouting in his belly button. Nimble rhyming couplets relate how the mortified boy attempts to hide his navel garden at school and at home, but finally has to reveal his predicament. Duly whisked off to the doctor, he is told, ""Your case is a matter beyond this physician./ I think a landscaper should treat your condition."" Ultimately put to rights by a kindly gardener, Billy learns his lesson and scrubs himself thoroughly. This tale provides a good warm-up to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's remedy for nonbathers (in which a filthy child gets a sprinkling of radish seeds). Wry vignettes show Billy in various stages of distress, from an early view of the boy asleep, a geology-style cutaway view labeling the 15 different layers of dirt in his belly button, to a snapshot of the boys' room at school, where readers spy Billy's red-sneakered feet below the stall door and the top of a shrub emerging above it. A Popsicle-bright palette adds further sparkle to this romp. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)