Annabelle’s wish for an out-of-this-world birthday party crash-lands in Hosford’s spirited, if slightly off-meter, book.
What works are the whimsical illustrations. Clifton-Brown depicts Annabelle, her expressive, freckled face, with an ethereal glow that is at once childlike and celestial. Hosford does a fine job demonstrating Annabelle’s determination to host a celebration that surpasses past parties at the zoo. However, constant shifts in meter are as jarring as a NASA warning: Reader, we have a problem. Annebelle says, “My birthday is soon. It’s practically here. / I think I’ll have my party on the moon this year,” her words tilting in the meter of “Habenara” from Carmen. But later when the narrator declares, “They hired out an astronaut, experienced and smart, / Who rented them a rocket ship, guaranteed to start. […] / They shot into space with gravity pulling on everyone’s face,” the tempo misfires like opera at a rodeo. Readers will relate to Annabelle’s birthday-bash struggle, and they will find the textural illustrations invigorating. But the clunky rhyme scheme frustrates repeat readings.
While the illustrations maintain a harmonious duet with the story, the language stalls instead of soars. (Picture book. 5-8)