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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dozens of Cousins, written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by David Catrow. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2013. $20.99 ages 4 and up

"Oh, we are rowdy ogres.
We roar! We growl!
We parade out back doors
and leap over steps,
rushing down to the secret
grottoes of the creek.
We fill up on beastie delights
on catching frogs and crawdads..."

Family reunions can be spectacularly different. The cousins at this annual family reunion use every minute to share joy and camaraderie. They are eager to experience what they remember from last year, and to show that they are even 'beastlier' than they were then. They have no qualms about dealing with the endless snuggling and cuddling of being with aging kinfolk:

"With beastie courage we greet our aunt
who grabs for us and says, "Glory be!"
With beastie paws we tackle our uncles
who tickle us and say, "Good golly!"

They are captivated by the world and all that is in it:

"With bare arms, bare legs, bare feet,
we race through  the world.,
snatching it up and eating it,
running with hearts hungry for hugs
and tummies hungry for treats.
Yummy beastie food!"

Hearts hungry for hugs???? Can you say it better than that?

We don't know their names, but we do know pretty quickly that they are 'beasts' all the best ways. They love life, with a wild abandon. They share with all. They bring great joy to the older members of their family, and some consternation to the neighbors. They are naughty and they glory in it!

The lilting language is matched perfectly by David Catrow's pencil, ink and gouache artwork. He fills each page with the exuberance and exultant pleasure felt by every single person in attendance at this reunion. You will pore over the pages time and again before you notice all the small details that make is so enjoyable.

When night falls, the comfort of loved ones is much appreciated:

"We claw our way onto laps, steal hugs,
and snatch at splashes of song.

Oh, we are weary ogres!
We float, munching on tasty words
that well up in stories,
and on the soft lapping of laughter."


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