In this minimalist Australian import, readers are encouraged to guess animals based on select written and visual clues.
On each recto, readers see the hindquarters of an animal, and three simple clues ask them to guess what kind of animal they may belong to. “I have long furry ears and a small nose. / I live in a burrow in the ground. / I have a white fluffy tail. / I AM A….” The splashy watercolor rear legs and tail are ambiguous enough that they may have readers second-guessing the obvious answer. Turning the page, however, readers discover both the well-defined front half of the animal and the animal’s name: “RABBIT.” Canty uses stock 19th-century animal illustrations layered with watercolor enhancements, creating a somber yet surprising tone. Two tailless animals, a frog and human readers, are included in the roster, making the “tails” referenced in the title symbolic rather than literal. Two red herrings, the image of a mouse between the clues for and image of an elephant and (inexplicably) a squirrel leading to a giraffe, fall flat, with no other cues to young readers that they are jokes. The quirky illustrations, earthy colors, and lack of exhibited enthusiasm will make this book’s audience a niche one. There is no backmatter.
A clever conceit but a bland execution. (Informational picture book. 2-5)