A meditation on the middle for beginning readers and younger listeners supports some appealingly merry illustrations.
Manushkin’s rhyming text is an invitation to a general celebration of abdomens—readers' own or other peoples', and occasionally those of beasts and birds—in all their rounded but not-very-unusual variety. The verse serves as an adequate vehicle for the art, which is the real treat here, with Yaccarino’s clever, energetic, lighthearted illustration: His round-headed, round-bodied people are set against brightly colored blocks and patterns with symmetry and syncopation. Throughout, Manushkin uses only the word belly for the front of the torso, with one exception: “Once upon a time your mummy / grew you—right inside her tummy.” She humorously points out that belly-button lint is kind of mysterious (“Where it comes from, no one knows!”). When the easy-to-read rhymes start to stretch thin, relying on lists (“Parade your bellies from here to Spain. / Bellies in the desert! / Bellies in the rain!”), Yaccarino plumps them up with an artful twinkle: A slim, floating, belly-buttoned green alien in a white bikini accompanies “In outer space! In a bikini!” His playful full-page gouaches zip nimbly from thought to thought and invest the whole with a generous dollop of whimsy.
Delightful art adds panache to this simple ode to a familiar body part. (Picture book. 2-6)