cover image Cress Watercress

Cress Watercress

Gregory Maguire, illus. by David Litchfield. Candlewick, $19.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5362-1100-9

Maguire (Egg and Spoon) interweaves familiar elements of the animal story—a cozy family, a treacherous woodland, mourning, and growing pains—into a surreal episodic narrative. Grieving the loss of Papa Watercress, who “went out and didn’t come back,” rabbit child Cress, her little brother Kip, and their mother abandon their warren for new digs in “an apartment tree” known as the Broken Arms, where landlord Mr. Owl demands rent paid in moths. Upstairs are superintendent mice, boisterous squirrels, and songbirds alert for predators such as legendary snake “the Final Drainpipe” and fox Monsieur Reynard. Maguire channels multiple children’s literary golden ages, with allusions to Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame alongside nonsense notes of Norton Juster and Russell Hoban. Theatrical situations abound, as from conniving skunk Lady Agatha Cabbage—who wants to gain Cress as a “housemaid”—and her scene-stealing live-chinchilla stole. Super-saturated panels by Litchfield (The Bear and the Piano), which resemble backlit stained glass, picture the forest and its denizens in glowing hues and shadowy black. Suitable for sharing and reading aloud, this exuberant tale revels in the performative and the flavor of language. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Moses Cardona, John Hawkins and Assoc. Illustrator’s agent: Anne Moore Armstrong, Bright Agency. (Mar.)