A variety of children, birds, and other creatures cavorts in this debut rhyming picture book.
Listed for ages 3 and up, this volume offers enough magic to charm a bevy of curious readers. An epigraph from George Harrison, “Show me that I’m everywhere and get me home for tea,” sets the tone of travel, delight, and familiar comforts. As with Alice’s adventures beyond the looking glass, kids and animals populate the story, but rather than being hallucinatory and frightening, the various scenes are wondrous and alluring. Some moments are profound. The very first page shows a little owl peeking out of his hole in a craggy tree, the night sky behind a light blue wash with chinks left white or colored yellow for the stars. The facing text is just a couple of lines: “This is me in here. / Is that you out there?” The effect is humbling, suggesting a mutual inquisitiveness between creature and reader—a most welcoming party invitation. Other guests include a winged dog, a fish with large eyelashes, a white rabbit, several birds, three mice with their own teacups, a dark-haired girl, and Bird Face, who appears in a long red coat, blue top hat, and a pointed beak mask. Accompanying his picture, a quatrain with strong rhymes by Ross fills in the character’s story: “He drinks all kinds of teas. / He feeds his birds with peas. / He built his house from cheese.” A few pages later, a slightly crooked multistory house receives its own portrait, with the Eiffel Tower small but stalwart in the distance. Large green shutters accentuate the windows, and the paired text enumerates the residents of each floor. (Ducks with hats live in the penthouse.) Some of the human characters in Usova’s (Mrs. T’s Kooky Pants, 2014, etc.) distinctive illustrations have faces that are pale on one side and darker on the other. Houses are a prominent visual motif in the images, as readers see a lady’s hat that boasts lit windows, a thatch roof in the distance, a castlelike school, and an intimate mouse house under the snow cherries, cozy with a table—and tea—for two in winter.
A smart and whimsical tale with characters savoring tea and elegant watercolors complementing the verses.