Chernesky and Swan (Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes, 2013) reunite, again pairing a season with an early learning concept.
This time, a mom and two siblings visit a farm stand on a hot summer day. The boy and girl count their way through Mom’s list, from 1 watermelon to 12 ears of corn. Chernesky’s rhymed couplets are uneven, with spry ones undercut by others that employ tired rhymes or sacrifice kid appeal for rhythm. One sturdy couplet (“1 watermelon so smooth and round. / 2 purple eggplants that weigh two pounds”) is followed by doggerel: “3 bell peppers: orange, green, and yellow / 4 cucumbers. What bumpy fellows!” The lines “9 fine tomatoes are firm and red. / 10 plump plums will keep us well-fed” convey an intrusively persnickety, adult tone, out of step in a child’s narrative. Swan’s digital-and–cut-paper collages elevate the piece, presenting a riotous harvest of brilliant produce against an azure sky and green fields. The light-brown–skinned children (perhaps Latino) exude good spirits, but Swan—an extraordinary colorist, highly skilled at capturing texture by combining painted, cut paper and digital elements—is not at her best depicting humans. The cheerful but banal faces of people are static and cartoonish throughout. But those onions and peaches? Gorgeous.
Nails its seasonal and counting concepts, with both flair and flaws. (Picture book. 4-7)