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OPINION | READ TO ME: Critters drive critter-cars in the trees in new book for kids

by Celia Storey | February 22, 2021 at 1:49 a.m.
"Road Trip: A Whiskers Hollow Adventure" by Steve Light (Candlewick Press, Feb. 9), ages 2-5, 40 pages, $16.99 hardcover. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

'Road Trip: A Whiskers Hollow Adventure'

BY: Steve Light (Candlewick Press, Feb. 9), ages 2-5, 40 pages, $16.99 hardcover.

STORY: Kids who prefer naturalism and neat lines might wrinkle their noses at Steve Light's humorous illustrations and complain that they "look messy." But kids who enjoy studying drawings with little parts will like the scenery in this animal fantasy. And it is set in a woodland populated by oddly sized, anthropomorphic critters.

Bear, a truck-driving country dude, wants to go fast, but he also wants to do the right thing. He's chunkier but shorter than Rabbit, an ectomorphic lagomorph who looks like a teenager and eats like one. Mouse is big for a mouse — with a nose as long as Bear's passenger window is wide — but Mouse is cautious and stays prepared for worst-case scenarios. Donkey has a motor scooter and wants to lead the way. Elephant owns a junkyard but has no idea where things are.

After Bear collides with an acorn, his truck needs a new headlamp. He drives along the treetops, inviting buddies to go with him to ask Donkey to lead them to Elephant's junkyard.

The trip is entertainingly hazardous, the roads consisting of wobbly branches — which makes Mouse look less timid and more smart. No accidents occur until they arrive at the junkyard; but that accident is a happy one. Everyone has a satisfying experience.

The forest is densely mapped on the book endpapers, so kids can read labels on trees and imagine other road trips.

Light's earlier picture books include "Have You Seen My Dragon?" and "Have You Seen My Monster?", both similarly whimsical and well planned.

Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.

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