cover image WISE ACRES


George Shannon, , illus. by Deborah Zemke. . Handprint, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-59354-041-8

Zemke's (D Is for Doodle ) watercolor-and-ink renderings of the barnyard denizens on Wise Acres farm are the main attraction in this trio of stories. Janet, a diving pig (her specialties include the "Bacon Buster") attempts to retrieve a submerged tambourine, lost during some enthusiastic shaking by Pearl the nanny goat; Vern, a ram who yearns for mail, receives individual letters of the alphabet from some well-meaning chickens; and a vain turkey named Ted decides to fight wrinkles with shoes made from pine cones: "It hurts so much to walk," he boasts to his friends, "I haven't thought of anything else since I put them on!" Although a goofy logic bubbles through the stories (when Doug the rooster remarks that the one envelope that Vern receives is empty, Vern replies, "No news is good news, as everyone knows"), Shannon's (Lizard's Song ) writing is uncharacteristically static. Without a comic rhythm or arch point of view, the prose often feels like a well-intended joke gone flat. But Zemke's artwork, brimming with whimsy and wit, buoys the book. Her precise ink line becomes a kind of visual straight man to the shenanigans, while her characters exude the manic intensity and earnestness that are the marks of true silliness. Ages 4-8. (June)