cover image LITTLE HUMPTY


Margaret Wild, , illus. by Ann James. . Simply Read, $16.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-894965-11-8

Australian artist James's (The Midnight Babies ) extraordinary watercolors are the main attraction here. Luminous and evincing an almost palpable fluidity, the pictures look as if they were painted on silk. Little Humpty, a young camel, lives alone with his doting mother "in the hot, hot desert where the wind whirled and the sand swirled"—an inhospitable landscape that James lyrically evokes with radiant swathes of yellow and orange. Like good observant parents of all species, Big Humpty realizes that her gangly, growing offspring is ready for a wider world and a bigger circle of playmates. The two set off for the Great Waterhole, and Little Humpty excitedly speculates about the other kinds of animals he'll see there—a sense of anticipation that James heightens with vignettes of lolling elephants and crocodiles, punctuated with pinks and greens. Nothing prepares him for the joyful reality that greets him: "lots and lots of little humpties, just like me!" Wild's (Nighty Night ) storytelling may be somewhat pedestrian, but it never intrudes on James's bravura performance. Everything readers need to know is in the pictures: Big Humpty is a reassuring and authentically weary maternal presence, while the artist depicts the comically rangy Little Humpty with dark, matinee-idol eyes and the innocent impishness of a billy goat. In their easygoing familiarity with one another, the camels create the picture-perfect definition of the boundless love between parent and child. Ages 3-up. (Dec.)