cover image It's My Birthday

It's My Birthday

Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick Press (MA), $9.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-1-56402-412-1

Oxenbury brings her considerable talents to bear on this slender but winsome picture book. ``It's my birthday and I'm going to make a cake,'' announces a child, and one by one a host of animal friends offer their contributions--an egg from the chicken, flour from the bear, salt from the pig and so on. Perfectly paced, the story celebrates friendship and ends, naturally, with a party. Like the casts of Else Holmelund Minarik's classic tales, the animals are gently anthropomorphized, and the affection they display toward one another underscores the story's theme. Oxenbury deliberately leaves the child's gender ambiguous, making it all that much easier for every reader to identify with her character. As always, her understated watercolors are filled with whimsy--from a picnicking otter family that lends salt to the pig to a bespectacled sheep at the market cash register--and they shine with the quiet resplendence of happy family life. Ages 2-up. (Aug.)