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Carnival of the Animals: CD Inside!    by John Lithgow & Boris Kulikov order for
Carnival of the Animals
by John Lithgow
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The very clever verses of this picture book are from the narration (written by John Lithgow) of the New York City Ballet's Carnival of the Animals, which opened in 2003. The author eloquently presents his verses on the CD which comes with the book, his words interspersed with dramatic music. Boris Kulikov's illustrations provide a bold, theatrical accompaniment to the poem.

It's all about 'Oliver Pendleton Percy the Third', 'a mischievous imp of a lad'. On a school trip to the Natural History Museum, he hides in an area marked 'Under Repairs', and stays the night 'amidst antelopes, beavers, and bears'. His dreams turn the people of his world (parents, teachers, schoolgirls and boys, and even siblings) into the animals all around him, and Lithgow writes it all into brilliant rhymes.

Here's my favorite. 'Rodents raced in, like a pack of wet cats, / All snapping and nipping and nibbling. / The ferrets and badgers and weasels and rats / Were sticky-faced toddlers and snotty-nosed brats, / A species that always drove Oliver bats: / The Greater New York younger sibling.' But all the verses do a wonderful job of showing young readers how to make language work for you.

It all ends well, of course, for both Oliver Percy and the animals, as the former, reunited with his parents, muses 'oh! what a fabulous night he had had, / When his world was turned into a zoo!' Carnival of the Animals is one of those classic picture books to be pored over, and listened to, again and again by all ages.

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