Homonyms are used as mnemonic devices to help readers remember “A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns.”
Cleverness abounds in Rosenthal’s latest, from the title to the backmatter, which presents a glossary—“ambush (tigers): an attack from a hiding place”—asking children to guess why the words are appropriate for each animal group. The tongue-in-cheek text never falters in its rhythm and rhyme. “Does a prickle of porcupines / feel any pain? / Can a flush of mallards / get sucked down the drain?” The illustrations are a perfect match for the text’s wit. Three heavily bandaged porcupines lie in hospital beds, a sink between two of them. The convoluted pipes under the sink twist and turn across the gutter to discharge both water and mallards in an underground tunnel. A sleuth of bears, complete with magnifying glasses and fedoras, investigate a murder of crows. Three kangaroos belong to a troop, collecting dues and selling cookies while wearing sashes sewn with patches. Other highlights from the 33 featured animals include a shiver of sharks sporting scarves, a bouquet of pheasants arranged in a vase, a dancing rhumba of rattlesnakes and a lounge of lizards in the sun by the pool. Jago’s illustrations walk the line between cartoon and realistic, his animals only anthropomorphized if the text suggests it. All are painted on canvas, which supplies a pleasing texture.
Collective nouns have never been this much fun…or memorable. (Informational picture book. 5-9)