Cause-related anthologies are challenging to do well, but this one (benefiting the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art) succeeds admirably—on multiple levels.
The investment of 13 popular illustrators allows Carle to present a portable gallery of animals and a marvelous array of approaches, media and layouts that even the youngest viewers can access. The only thing missing is ethnic diversity among the artists. Accompanying the assemblage are brief poems, captions or anecdotes conveying why these are favored choices. Peter Sís relays the Czech ritual of watching the Christmas Eve carp swimming in the bathtub and the tearful parade of neighborhood children releasing their dinners into the river; his flying fish transports three feline kings bearing gifts. Chris Raschka’s hand-lettered, existential musings are paired with his portrait of a lowly snail building a dazzling shell. Older children with a book background will have fun recognizing the work of familiar illustrators: Lane Smith’s textured, green pachyderm; Lucy Cousins’ heavily spotted leopard rendered in searing yellow; Erin Stead’s understated penguins. They will also enjoy Bad Kitty’s antics as he jealously breaks into Nick Bruel’s octopus story and the duo’s “shameless flattery” of the volume’s compiler. The book opens with Carle’s collaged string-bean–loving cat and concludes with photographs of his museum.
This menagerie offers picture-book lovers of all ages a glimpse into each creator’s style, personality and brand of humor. (biographies, photographs, websites) (Picture book. 4-8)