cover image NOW WHAT CAN I DO?


Margaret Park Bridges, Chronicle Books, M. Bridges, , illus. by Melissa Sweet. . North-South/SeaStar, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58717-046-1

Two gray raccoons make the best of a rainy day in this call-and-response book by Bridges and Sweet (previously paired for Will You Take Care of Me?). When a child raccoon repeats the titular question, wondering how to pass the time, its mother says, "Well, we can start by making your bed." "Oh, Mommy—that's not fun," protests the child. "But it can be... if your bed is a boat!" the mother replies. A wordless, full-page image shows the youngster sailing; fun and chores are not mutually exclusive. The mother then suggests a Wild West roundup ("Your toys are a herd of cattle grazing on the prairie") and a laundry expedition ("You dig deep enough to find fossils... or the oldest sock!"). This familiar repetitive formula effectively sets up tensions between a knowing mother and a skeptical child, real life and exuberant fantasy. Sweet creates cozy acrylic paintings with a rainbow-ice-cream palette, crayon scribbles and torn paper; the raccoons lock eyes and smile warmly at each other. Bridges's text, composed entirely of dialogue, appears in two typefaces that distinguish the speakers. In the end, the cooperative child asks all the questions and the patient parent gives all the answers. But if this game of let's-pretend is one-sided, it's also full of ideas for a day indoors. Ages 3-5. (Aug.)