Lemmings aren’t exactly known for their anti-establishment nonconformity, except for Briggs’ Larry, or is it Mary?
Lemmings live up north, up on a tundra colored in Slater’s lovely swaths of pistachio green, ballpark-mustard yellow, and tangerine orange. Living in this particular slice of the Arctic is a lemming that also happens to be an odd duck. “Call me Larry,” he informs his indistinguishable mates. “What’s a Larry?” asks one lemming. “I hear he wants to be called Mary,” says another. In the accompanying illustration, Larry is wearing a grass skirt, lei, and hibiscus behind one ear. (If this is meant to open an inquiry into gender identity, it’s not pursued.) Larry just doesn’t cotton to the lemming way of life: burrowing, eating moss, jumping off cliffs en masse. So he tries life with his other friends: the puffins, seals, and polar bears. But the seals are too noisy, the puffins live on cliffs, and the bears appear to be sizing Larry up for lunch (some friends). So it is back to the lemmings, now merrily running toward the cliff’s edge. This can’t be good, no matter the genetic impulse, thinks Larry, so he bolts to the front and steers them clear of the wayward impulse by leading them to his cabin, where they eat pepperoni pizza. No more “Follow the Leader”—now it’s “Follow the Larry.” Lemmings, evidently, never learn.
Despite the alluring artwork, this is a half-baked tale. (Picture book. 4-8)