cover image This Orq (He Cave Boy)

This Orq (He Cave Boy)

David Elliott, illus. by Lori Nichols. Boyds Mills, $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62091-521-9

Elliott’s (In the Sea) humorously blunted, primitive language and gently shaded pencil drawings from Nichols (Maple) turn what might have been a predictable story about a boy’s attempt to domesticate a woolly mammoth into a sparkling comic monologue. The story zips along as Orq brings Woma home: “Orq love Woma,” Elliott explains, which Nichols visualizes with big red hearts floating between Orq and his ungainly pet. Orq attempts to teach Woma tricks so that his mother will be impressed, a venture that’s naturally doomed to failure. Commanded to “speak,” Woma’s blast knocks Orq’s mother off her feet, while rolling over smothers her cherished flowers. Playing hunter, Orq is spotted by a sabertooth tiger: “Sabertooth love Orq” (Nichols draws a juicy steak above the prowling sabertooth, and the requisite little hearts). Woma lumbers into view at precisely the right moment, saving Orq’s life. “Mother love Woma. Woma back in cave.” Rereadings will be clamored for, and the story will probably bring out the inner caveperson of everyone in the house. Ages 3–7. Illustrator’s agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Sept.)