Curious EnCOUNTers: 1 to 13 Forest Friends

Ben Clanton, illus. by Jessixa Bagley. Little Bigfoot, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-63217-274-7

Wondering “where the trail will lead,” a child embarks on a hike, commencing not a calm commune with nature but a madcap enumerative romp through 13 outdoor scenes. The spreads feature not-so-typical animal antics described in concise, alliterative sentences—“three slugs sipping cider,” “seven beavers baking bread,” “eleven orcas in an orchestra.” Bagley’s affably anthropomorphic creatures wear bandannas and collect mollusks in buckets (“otters opening oysters”), and they don hats and backpacks (“seagulls searching and soaring”). The wordplay implied by the title is plentiful, via dialogue that occurs in punny speech bubbles: a movie-directing moose declares its creation “a moose-ical,” and a knitting wolf tells a sheep that its donation “was wool-y great of ewe.” Clever use of page turns connects the scenes as the action continues from one spread to the next in a would-be panorama. Only “forest friends” are mentioned in the title, but water dwellers (such as orcas and seals) are included in the tally, perhaps indicative of the creators’ Pacific Northwestern provenance. Though the humor sometimes veers over the top, this wild, offbeat adventure is slyly instructive. Ages 3–7. [em]Author’s agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Alexandra Penfold, Upstart Crow Literary. (Aug.) [/em]