Bright, swirling, busy spreads in warm gouache colors enhance this simple tale of a family of California quails, reminiscent of Make Way for Ducklings.
The 10 little yellow quails faithfully follow Mama Quail along the meadow trail while Papa Quail watches from above. “In a straight little line went ten little chicks, and as / they went, ten little heads went bob bob bob, / ten sets of feet went tap tap tap, / and ten round bodies went hurry, hurry, hurry.” But as the title suggests, the littlest quail, Queenie, has other things on her mind. She dawdles along at her own pace, continually distracted by “pink blossoms and green grass, / shiny stones and fuzzy caterpillars, / buzzy bumblebees and wiggly worms.” Until one day, in the rear as usual, Queenie spies “An unusual flash of orange,” which turns out to be…a cat! And it’s headed straight for the little quail family. Queenie immediately raises the alarm, squeaking and chirping as she races along the trail. Alerted by the warning, Papa Quail swoops in and saves the day, scaring the cat away. Whittingham adopts a slightly old-fashioned storytelling voice to tell her tale, employing rhythm and repetition to both delineate characters and propel the plot. Pedersen imbues her quail chicks with lots of personality by focusing on their wide, white faces and bouncing topknots.
The moral? Slow down and smell the roses! (Picture book. 2-5)