cover image Tuesday in Arizona

Tuesday in Arizona

Marian Harris. Pelican Publishing Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56554-233-4

No matter the day of the week, this picture book about a down-and-out miner is sure to befuddle. At the get-go, a vague, somewhat silly description introduces a key character (""You will know that a pack rat lives near you... if you find chewed acorns where you thought you left your toy dinosaur""). The critter is the linchpin of the ensuing tale: a gold miner gets thrown by his mule, has his sombrero chewed to bits and watches his cabin get robbed before deciding to pack up and look for greener--or golder, as the case may be--pastures. The miner doesn't realize his string of bad luck is caused by a pesky pack rat, though the comic illustrations clue readers in. However, the varmint turns out to be worth more than his weight in gold, as he has hoarded a bunch of nuggets that send the miner jumping for joy. Marian Harris's (Goose and the Mountain Lion) text has an enjoyably ornery, Old West tone, but the story is cryptic; even with the accompanying illustrations, readers will likely have trouble filling in all the blanks. Jim Harris's (Ten Little Dinosaurs) feisty bald and bearded miner evokes a fairy-tale troll. The dusty desert setting, dotted by an occasional green cactus or tree, and ramshackle cabin and mining tools provide a distinct sense of time and place for this otherwise elusive tale. Ages 5-8. (May)