cover image BIG DAY ON THE RIVER


Sarah Wilson, , illus. by Randy Cecil. . Holt, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6787-3

Sunny and silly, Wilson's (Love and Kisses) lark of a tale pits a spunky girl against her too-helpful relatives. Willie can't wait to go rafting all by herself: " 'Yow-eee!' she shouted. 'My first day out on the Wallawatchee, and nobody's here to tell me what to do or how to do it!' " That is, until Gramma Clementia brings Willie a "bumpy bag of apples" ("You'll be hungry as a hound by midmorning!" Gramma says), Grampa Ezekiel shows up with a blanket to prevent "ice-bumps," Uncle Mumpford brings a chair, Cousin Clyde donates a hefty pot of beans, and so on until the vessel sinks under the weighty cargo. Everyone jumps into the river to save his or her gifts, then renounces his meddlesome ways, at last leaving the girl to set off blissfully alone. Using bright acrylic gouache that bear a light-suffused similarity to rag-rolled walls, Cecil (Dusty Locks and the Three Bears) portrays this quirky crew with squatty bodies, big heads, bulbous noses and rubbery limbs. Wilson studs her prose with equally unconventional colloquialisms ("laughing fit to burst"), yoked-together adjectives ("sad-perplexed," "shoulder-high-shallow") and oddly named characters (e.g., Uncle Binderbus). Youngsters who go along for the ride should savor both the slapstick touches and Willie's independent spirit. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)