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The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

Cronin, Doreen Wiggle; illus. by Scott Menchin.  Atheneum, 2005  34p
ISBN 0-689-86375-6  $12.95                   R  2-4 yrs

Got a crowd of children who can't sit still? Have we got a readaloud for you! In this exuberant picture book from the author of Caldecott Honor book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (BCCB 9/00), bouncy, galloping meter and a beaglish canine protagonist encourage listeners to wiggle, wiggle, wiggle through the day.

Leading off with the questions "Do you wake up with a wiggle?/ Do you wiggle out of bed?", the book explores a whole catalogue of ways to wiggle—the jolly mutt wiggles (or considers wiggling) with gorillas, with his breakfast, in his polka-dotted underwear, and on the moon. Compact tetrameter alternates freely between questions ("Can you wiggle with your toys?"), advice ("Wiggle slowly when with polar bears"), and invitation ("Would you join me for a wiggle?"), with tongue-twisting repetition and alliteration combining with funny references to maximize the silliness quotient. The final pages, spattered with stars and sporting a snoring sleeper, end the book with a bedtime comment: "I think we're out of wiggles now./ See you wiggle soon!" In spite of the book's obvious narcoleptic intentions, the vivacious rhymes have such an energetic message that it will be difficult to get listeners to sit still during the reading, much less fall asleep soon afterward. That's all right, because there are plenty of other times that would be improved with a good wiggle, and sometimes a rowdy pre-bedtime wiggle is just what the doctor/dad/babysitter ordered.

For all their wiggly intentions, the illustrations are crisp and clear, confining their wiggle-indicating to flurries of movement lines and a generous sense of joyous urgency. The assertively uncluttered, digitally rendered illustrations in sunny golds and lemons over complementary pastel backgrounds command attention from a distance, a real boon to large readaloud audiences. The spreads make clever use of texture and visual depth through the use of scattered photographs of real objects interspersed on several planes with cartoon drawings that feature offset, colored fill, lending the impression of movement to most of the spreads. (Paradoxically, more peaceful layouts feature the likes of gaping-mouthed crocodiles and a pride of polar bears.) The wide-eyed, large-bodied figures evince a streamlined yet solid charm reminiscent of P. D. Eastman's characters, adding to the humorous appeal.

The real power of this book lies in the fact that it absolutely nails its preschool audience: images, text, and message are perfectly aimed at delighting bouncy youngsters with surprises and laughter, and the experience only gets better with repeated reading—even the adults present will want to shake out a wiggle or two. This effervescent offering simply howls for listeners and viewers to shimmy along, preferably at every storytime over the course of a season . . . or many seasons. With the magnetic appeal of its bold illustrations and chantable rhymes, this could well be the book remembered and sought out in decades to come, when our present young ones are toting around their own toddlers.

It's a wiggle worth sharing again and again. Get plenty of copies in rough-and-tumble covers for lending, and after storytimes, expect to hear listeners chanting the text from memory as they trundle away.

Timnah Card, Reviewer

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Cover illustration by Scott Menchin from Wiggle ©2005. Used by permission of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.


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