Adult abstraction and preschooler literalism duke it out in this cute but muddled picture book. When Robert refuses to share his toy train with Connie, she says, ``All right... You play with that one. I'll play with this one... '' The next page shows Connie riding in a real train, presumably in her imagination. Five times this pattern repeats-Robert's possessiveness and Connie's retreat into fantasy-until Robert softens, presumably while hearing Connie tell a story. Lambert's (Fly by Night) bright paintings have an intriguing roughness akin to cut paper, and his characters are huggable and squat. But even his talent cannot compensate for the frustration that lies ahead for preschoolers loftily told to ``play in their heads'' while in daily life they struggle with the nuts and bolts of how to share tangible goods-among the hardest lessons they learn. Ages 2-6. (Feb.)
PreS-Gr 1-Walsh and Lambert effectively contrast the limitations of the concrete with the power of imagination. When Connie visits Robert's house, he is determined to keep all his toys to himself. Undaunted, the clever little girl embellishes each object in her mind to create a richer world of make-believe. At last, Robert decides to play with his friend, and Connie shares a story with him. The white backgrounds and simple toys depicted in Robert's portion of the narrative contrast with the lushly colored double-page spreads of Connie's fanciful musings. This juxtaposition recalls John Burningham's books about Shirley (HarperCollins), another girl who excelled at creating her own imagined worlds. Here, text and illustrations work harmoniously to carry viewers through the story. The book may also provide the opportunity to initiate conversations about sharing.Kathy Piehl, Mankato State University, MN
The concept of sharing is at the heart of this story about two children, one of whom thinks only of himself. "When Connie came to play in Robert's house," Robert wouldn't share his toys. He didn't know how. But Connie really didn't mind; she knew how to play with Robert's toys by using her imagination; and being more generous than her playtime companion, she agreed to include him in her special game by telling him a story. Lambert's pictures convey as much story as the words, but young children may find them a trifle confusing at first, not understanding that the wordless double-spread ones depict Connie's imagination at work. Kids won't misunderstand the clearly expressed emotions on the children's faces, though, and there's a hazy, innocent quality about the art that has great child appeal. The pictures are perfectly attuned to the spare, subtle rendering of a familiar childhood situation.