A menagerie of common creatures portrayed in uncommon ways.
This book riffing on animals’ collective nouns has the declarative force of a George R.R. Martin title and the head-tilting creativity of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Debut author Lukoff’s pithy statements are so bold and unexpected that each of the dozen or so situations described is presented in a double-page spread and given wide—though richly colored—illustrative berth. The volume opens on a cryptic note: “The nuisance of cats blamed it on the dog,” immediately driving readers to Nelson’s vivid mixed-media illustration, on the hunt for what “it” might be. While Nelson’s witty depiction rewards (a group of bemused cats sits loosely lassoed together by a few loops of yarn with a lone strand leading back to the mouth of a sleeping dog), one must still infer both what “it” is (cats tied up, a skein of yarn used for ulterior purposes?) and who’s really being considered the “nuisance”—the cat posse or the dog? Each of Lukoff’s seemingly arbitrary declarations operates similarly, employing sophisticated vocabulary and some behavioral characteristics of the animals described—monkeys, giraffes, sheep, frogs, the eponymous ravens—to paint a scene, perhaps the most hilarious and poetic of which involves hippos: “The bloat of hippopotamuses raced up the river. Five words: explosion at the cupcake factory.”
Offbeat nonsense humor of the highest order: not to be missed. (Picture book. 3-8)