cover image When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up

Charise Mericle Harper, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2905-2

The phrase, ""When I grow up, I want to be...,"" typically precedes a career choice, but in this amiable debut volume, Harper fills in the blank with qualities like ""brave"" and ""determined."" Each spread presents a single word, hand-printed in colorful capital letters, along with a statement and illustration to demonstrate the ideal. She matches the term ""generous"" with a winter scene between two friends (""You can have one of my mittens, I'll keep my hand in my pocket""). ""Imaginative"" pictures a girl, a few thought bubbles and the artistic suggestion, ""Let's make something out of this box."" Harper short-circuits sentimentality by adopting a na ve folk-art style, la Calef Brown or Rodney Alan Greenblat. Her playful acrylic paintings feature polka-dot frames and a recurrent set of animals, including a blue-green squirrel, a hat-wearing dog and a comical six-legged bug ""magnified"" by inset windows. Most memorably, Harper uses black-and-white photos of children's faces, seemingly snipped from a grade school yearbook, as collage elements. These illustrations are funny without mocking their anonymous subjects, and they have a do-it-yourself appeal. In addition to youngsters, this volume also suits those who have outgrown childhood, but still aspire to be ""confident"" and ""optimistic."" All ages. (Mar.)