cover image MOUSE IN A MEADOW


John Himmelman, . . Charlesbridge, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57091-521-5

With crisp, meticulously detailed watercolors and a concise, reportorial text, Himmelman (Frog in a Bog ) invites readers to explore the beautiful, diverse and—yes—predatory world of a meadow. To underscore this ecosystem's interconnectedness—and to prompt readers to keep turning the pages—the artist creates a generous margin of white space at one side of each spread's main action, in which a spot illustration introduces new creatures (and one human visitor). In one early spread, a black and yellow argiope spider (identified in an illustrated appendix) and her web occupy the white space; a corner of the web is in tatters where a bird has pulled an insect out of the sticky fibers and into the main drawing. ("The moth lands in a spider's web. A meadowlark beats her to it. No meal for the spider.") The title refers to the plump, busy creature who opens and closes the book; first seen "nibbl[ing] on nutsedge nutlets" in relative safety, the mouse's final appearance implies that it may soon be the dinner of another (a weasel that "knows there is a mouse hiding in the meadow"). That might prompt cries of "Is the mouse going to be okay?" from some children, but Himmelman so skillfully and sympathetically portrays the meadow's circle of life that most youngsters should be able to come to terms with the mouse's place on the food chain. Ages 3-8. (Feb.)