cover image Sign of the Seahorse

Sign of the Seahorse

Graeme Base. ABRAMS, $19.95 (44pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-3825-0

As the curtain rises on this Gilbert and Sullivan-like coral reef tale, the beautiful Pearl Trout (``cheerful, quick and bright'') and dashing Corporal Bert of the Soldiercrabs (``a clipped mustache, two eyes, eight boots, one glove'') are falling in love. But the amorous pair must part, as Bert and the Crab Army leave Reeftown to investigate the source of the pollution that is poisoning the area. The problem lies with the nefarious real estate schemes of the Grouper and his henchfish; ultimately, justice is meted out and the lovers are happily reunited. In Base's exemplary verse, perfect scansion and witty rhymes (``the legal licensee'' paired with ``a dollar ninety-three'') blend to create a comic saga of Brobdingnagian proportions. Likewise, the dynamic, radiantly colored illustrations are jam-packed with droll underwater details--all that's missing in this merry marine metropolis is the Little Mermaid. Despite the book's evident craft, however, youngsters may have difficulty here: the tale is lengthy for a picture-book audience, and the artwork's largesse might prove overwhelming. The verse makes splendid read-aloud material, however; nightly recitations of the various scenes should keep both reader and audience immensely entertained. All ages. (Oct.)