cover image The Backwards Birthday Party

The Backwards Birthday Party

Tom Chapin and John Forster, illus. by Chuck Groenink. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-6798-9

A topsy-turvy song from Chapin’s 1994 children’s recording, Zag Zig, becomes an equally zippy picture book. The celebration at hand is a boy’s birthday party that begins one morning when “the sun was sinking low” and wraps up in the glare of day, when the boy notes, “And I was one year younger than I’d been the day before.” In the intervening hours, party guests eat birthday cake first (“The ice cream was hot./ The candles were not”) and allow a blindfolded donkey to pin a tail on them (even the typography gets in on the fun, reading from bottom to top in an early scene). Madcap silliness reigns “at the backwards birthday party!/ the partyday birthwards back,” and Groenink (Santa Clauses) keeps pace, creating a rowdy menagerie of animal partygoers (an ape puffs into the wrong end of a clarinet, a cat and goose share a pair of pants) who sing and dance the night away—or is it morning? The mixed-media illustrations hum with energy, movement, and color, capturing the spirit of this anything-goes celebration. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Feb.)