The irrepressible Blake supplies illustrations for Yeoman’s English translation of the late Luzzati’s rhyming verses, “Filastrocca di Natale.”
The refrain is infectiously nonsensical: “With a bop and a bip and a bip and a bop/ A wardrobe with three little owls on the top. / And each of the three has decided to lay / A shiny white egg as it’s Christmas today.” The three loosely drawn pen-and-ink owls are differentiated by different wash colors, slightly different body types and appealing tufts on the bluish owl. They are a friendly trio, staring out from the page with large, round white eyes and clutching their individual eggs with sturdy, fingerlike feathers. Underneath is the hint of a wooden wardrobe. Blake’s trademark artwork continues to delight, as he shows the owls in their odd party garb; one is “wearing a gigantic vase for a hat.” Before setting off on a year’s journey that takes them around the world, the owls pull from a barrel a most unusual and learned fish, depicted in a whimsical double-page spread. While the “bops” and “bips” of the rhyme keep the youngest viewers happy, older children will enjoy such absurdities as the fish fretting about getting wet. The owls’ return to England coincides with Christmas, giving the book some holiday appeal as well.
Happy nonsense that feels very British despite its Italian origins. (Picture book. 2-5)