cover image Michael Hague's Illustrated the Teddy Bears' Picnic

Michael Hague's Illustrated the Teddy Bears' Picnic

Jimmy Kennedy. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1008-4

Hague has turned his considerable talents to the whimsical song written by Kennedy more than 40 years ago. The result, with its lavish, full-spread illustrations and large trim size, is almost a coffee-table book for children. In soft browns and ochres, Hague details the adventure of a boy who, disguised as a teddy bear, steals into the woods to spy on the bruins' picnic. As night falls, tiny animated mushrooms lift their heads; gnomes and fairies peep out from the tangle of roots, and even the gnarled old trees seem to come to life as the camouflaged bears peek from between the boughs. Given the lovely Teutonic gloom of this forest world, these goggle-eyed teddy bears may be a bit cutesy for some tastes. Nevertheless, the art goes a long way toward redeeming the text, to which time has not been kind. Kennedy's insubstantial lyrics are a jarring mixture of the sinister and the saccharine, as their thudding iambic tetrameter verses warn children to steer clear of the enchanted wood. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)