A stone in a child’s shoe triggers an avalanche of small misfortunes.
From a canoe-paddling cricket to a disgruntled trout to a hungry but thwarted bird—all have had a perfectly fine day ruined by the pebble’s erratic trajectory. It’s unfortunate that Howell’s narrative poem also meanders erratically. The meter ricochets from stanza to stanza as it collides with a rhyming pattern that hiccups and stumbles its way through this circular tale. “ ‘Whoa!’ said the cricket. ‘A boulder—I’m sunk!’ / He dumped it, it dropped… // on a trout with a clunk. / ‘Ugh!’ said the trout. ‘This is too tough to chew!’ // He spat it, it soared… // toward a duck’s good-as-new flowered / umbrella she’d brought to the zoo.” These and other sentence constructions defy most read-aloud attempts. It’s unfortunate that they distract from Carr’s layered, cut-paper dioramas. The sepia-toned silhouettes convey remarkable depth of field, as in one double-page spread in which an ant pushes the boulder-sized pebble across a meadow, the field grasses in the foreground blurred while the ant and pebble in the rear of the image stand out crisply.
Despite the issues with the limping narrative, the illustrations successfully hold the story together while conjuring a wistful air of yesteryear. (Picture book. 5-9)