When Kikko wakes up to snow, her father goes off to clear the walk around Grandma’s house but forgets the pie he was to take with him.
Kikko hurries to catch up to him, falling and crushing the pie in the process, but she discovers she has been following not her dad but a bear in a suit and hat! She follows him to a house she’s not seen before, where a well-dressed lamb invites her to tea. Around the tea table are seated carefully attired animals, greeting Kikko with interested gazes. They sit her down, invite her to eat and drink, and replace the smashed pie with slices of their own forest-made pies before accompanying her to Grandma’s in a grand parade. The illustrations are lovely and mysterious: what looks like charcoal or pencil softly indicates forest and interiors as well as the visages of upright and clothed deer, bear, rabbit, goat, and others. Spare use of color sparks in Kikko’s bright gold hair, her red hat, and the multihued pie slices. Minimal line and shadow suggest the forest as a Japanese print might, while the tumbled richness of the tea table evokes rich Dutch still lifes. Kikko’s family reads as Asian, perhaps Japanese, and the animals are as serene and otherworldly as Totoro.
As beguilingly surreal as the Mad Hatter’s party, with its own enigmatic appeal. (Picture book. 4-8)