cover image Who Loves the Little Lamb?

Who Loves the Little Lamb?

Lezlie Evans, , illus. by David McPhail. . Disney-Hyperion, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4231-1659-2

Evans’s (The Bunnies’ Trip ) rhymed text presents a series of naughty animals whose mothers say they love them despite their faults, from a “fussy lamb” to a “bumbling boar.” Although the book may reassure some toddler offenders, the overly sentimental ending is at odds with the modern depiction of a human boy and his mother it accompanies. The boy asks formally, “Tell me, Mama, is it true—/ do you care the whole day through?” The mother’s answer recalls a Victorian children’s book that is more intent on rhyming than sounding like real dialogue: “Yes, my precious child, it’s true—/ no matter what you say or do.... Mama loves her little one.” McPhail (No! ) portrays each of the disobedient or otherwise unhappy children in a tight oval, focusing attention on their emotional states; a page turn reveals a broader context of home or neighborhood, along with the animals’ mothers, who offer comfort or encouragement. The formal tone is occasionally jarred (“Who loves the prickly porcupine? 'Don’t worry, hon, you look divine!’ ”), and the saccharine ending lesson mars an otherwise innocuous text. Ages 2–5. (Jan.)