cover image Imaginary Menagerie

Imaginary Menagerie

Chronicle Books, Layne Longfellow. Chronicle Books, $10.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0797-5

The creators of Visual Feast introduce six animals who peek through die-cut windows and lurk behind gate-fold pages in this inventively designed picture book. The volume opens with a spread of a midnight-blue field decorated with white mice: on the left are the words ""If I had a...,"" opposite a square opening on the right that shows the ear and eye of a marigold-yellow cat. A turn of the page reveals the entire feline character and the word ""Cat."" Finally, this picture folds out into another cat image and the completion of the phrase. The narration (""If I had a... Cat/ We'd wear a hat, hat, hat"") pales compared to the engaging layout and Hubbard's lively, Matisse-inspired gouaches. Although the title hints at a more complex form of wordplay, Longfellow offers rather drab rhymes; for instance, the process repeats for a pet spider (""We'd hide her, hide her, hide her""), dog (""We'd jog...""), centipede (""We'd read..."") and so on. But Hubbard makes the most of these animals: his bespectacled centipede lounges with copies of War and Peace and Little Women, while his jogging dog, decked in the proper shoes, runs past markers that read ""far,"" ""very far"" and ""far out""--all in a vibrant palette of emerald green, poppy red and violet. Readers won't be bothered by the scant text when they feast their eyes on this one. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)