cover image Animal Baths

Animal Baths

Bob Barner. Chronicle, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4521-0056-2

“Animals like to get clean/ just like you and me,” concludes Barner’s survey of critter hygiene. “When you take a bath today,/ which one will you be?” With prompting from genial, generously scaled collages, readers can let their bathtub imaginations run wild, imagining that they’re eels that “clean pointy teeth/ with some help from tiny shrimp” or monkeys who “groom messy hair/ to start the monkey day.” Subtly dimensional and textural, with just the right amount of fancifulness and anthropomorphism (smiles beam off every spread, and a bear cub shoots readers a wink), the cut-paper collages bring to mind portraits of favorite plush toys. While most of the images are tableau-style, others exhibit a surprising suppleness, capturing how a duck turns its head to “wash, preen, and primp” its feathers or how an elephant’s trunk functions as a handheld shower. Barner (Bears! Bears! Bears!) is as skillful with rhymes as he is with materials, offering verses that exude a love of mouth-satisfying sounds: “Bats keep wings soft and neat/ with lots of little licks./ Bears scratch against tall trees/ to rub off mud and ticks.” Ages 4–8. (Oct.)