cover image MESS PETS


Jill McElmurry, . . North-South/SeaStar, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-1-58717-174-1

They may share genes and a bedroom, but twins Hilary and Hannah are polar opposites when it comes to cleanliness. This antagonistic, Oscar-and-Felix–style relationship is the genesis of a wacky fantasy about a room so messy it grows things—namely, "mess pets." "Hannah, Hannah, garbage canna,/ fell in love with a rotten banana!/ When we asked her, 'How's it smell?'/ she said, 'I like it very well!' " taunts tidy Hilary. Plucked from the playground, McElmurry's verse rollickingly reflects the contrasting pair—sometimes neat and tidy, and sometimes with nary a rhyme in sight. After setting up the conflict, McElmurry cuts loose her imagination (as she did so well in her debut book, Mad About Plaid); rather garish illustrations convey Hannah's chaotic half of the room, which spawns a fantastical, mess-loving dog. Envious, Hilary borrows some of the mess to conjure up her own cat, which then squabbles with the dog and leads the foursome into further adventures in a delightfully vile place called Mess World. There, McElmurry's funky, gouache paintings in psychedelic shades exude good humor as she portrays icky landmarks such as Spilled Milk Lagoon and Dust Bunny Mountain, inhabited by sneezing rabbits. While the freewheeling plot and busy illustrations may make some younger heads spin, those who can follow along are in for a fun ride. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)