Thursday, September 03, 2009

Near Cat-astrophe: Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert

That scary cat's back.
Boy, what a bummer!
See, that puss could spoil our summer!
A raccoon or a squirrel might bite a veggie.
But a cat loves meat,
And that makes us edgy!

We're having a harvest party tonight.
Guess who's the creep we didn't invite?

It's a vegetation celebration for the mice. The crops are coming in--Indian corn is ripe, there are sunflower and pumpkin seeds aplenty, nuts and wheat berries abound, and the mice would like to celebrate their bounty. But there's one carnivore that they abhor--the black cat whose skulking presence overhangs their festivities.

Just as we're about to dine,
That cat peeks out from behind a vine.

But we know exactly what to do.
We'll scare that scary cat...


And from their produce plenitude, the clever mice construct a monster terrifying enough to rout the cat, and the mice proceed with their celebration, safe to eat and not be eaten.

Lois Ehlert's amazing collage illustrations have delighted youngsters for years, and her just published Boo to You! (Beech Lane Books 2009) certainly keeps up the tradition. Her playful mice are constructed from rough-edged torn artisan paper, with twine limbs, tiny tomatoes for eyes, and seed pods for tails, and they frolic amid a whirlwind end-of-summer scene abounding with seeds, nuts, horse chestnuts, seed pods, berries, and pine cones, all held together by a swirling ribbon of brown craft paper uniting the scene. Minor characters such as birds are formed from colorful ornamental gourds and turban squash, and the cat himself is a bushy-tailed beast with preposterous pumpkin seed teeth. It's a festival for the eyes with a three-dimensional look that begs to be touched.

Backmatter includes Pumpkin Talk, with photos of children costumed as pumpkins and cats and many varied Jack-o'-lanterns, and Harvest Colors, a double-page spread which features all the autumnal bounty used in the collages which kids will love to seek out in the illustrations.

Boo to You! joins Ehlert's wonderful Leaf Man (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards)) and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf (reviewed here), all three playful yet reverent salutes to the turning of the seasons.

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