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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Water in the Park, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2013. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"The metal slides are too hot to touch, but the playground is crowded by ten o'clock. "Sweating even in the shade," complains Claudie K.'s sitter, fanning herself with a magazine. Children pour water down the slides."

Take a park, some sunshine, turtles, a bunch of dogs and their walkers, babies and their mothers, park attendants, birds, many more babies, children and their parents, an ice cream truck, puddles, pets, sundown and a rain shower...and you have a story. In Emily Jenkins' adept hand, you have a winsome, always fascinating homage to water and city parks, and their many fans.

It begins just at sunrise, when dogs come to enjoy a morning swim in the clear, blue pond. Of course, they are with their walkers (owners). As they romp, others arrive and thus begins an onslaught of visitors, all with purpose in mind and joy in their hearts. It's a simple story, told in Ms. Jenkin's own inimitable way. She tells it as if she is one of the children enjoying its many delights. She has a way with mentioning everything that attracts and holds the attention of little ones.

In present tense, she explores the joys to be found in the park and all of the ways that water plays a role in what is happening. In an opening note, she says that the idea came from spending time in Prospect Park in Brooklyn one hot summer. She is a shrewd witness to the many details that are cause for celebration. It's a day-in-the-life in the perfect sense of the word. I will read it again and again, always hoping that some young reader will enjoy the perfect language as much as I do...its rhythm, its simple elegance.

Stephanie Graegin  creates exemplary pencil-and-ink washes meant to encourage long leisurely looking. There is so much to see, the details are endless. Choose just one or two people and spend the day with them. Then, try someone else. Or, plant yourself at the sandbox, or the water fountain, or any of the other places she so ably explores. Did you meet Claudie K.?

It is a feast for your eyes and your ears!

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