In Lottie's New Beach Towel and Lottie's New Friend, Petra Mathers evokes the spirit of James Marshall's hippos George and Martha, celebrating the quiet joys of the friendship between Lottie the chicken and Herbie the duck with a feather-light touch.
In A Cake for Herbie, Herbie (the star of the third Herbie and Lottie book) decides to enter a poetry contest in which the winner literally takes the cake. Despite the fact that he stays up all night concocting poems about food from A to Z ("Artie chews, / Artie swallows, / Artichokes"), he is booed off the stage on the big night. This is especially "K ... for kruel" because Lottie is quite greenly sick and not there to comfort him. But all is not lost. Herbie, forlorn in the back alley, is soon ushered into a bustling restaurant kitchen where he and his delicious doggerel are welcomed by sweaty Betty (offering spaghetti) and a host of other shamelessly rhyming birds of a feather.
Herbie's new friends bake him a cake after all, and he can't wait to tell... Lottie! He zooms home along the now seemingly endless road, arriving with a mostly eaten cake and a story to share while she knits on the couch. Mathers's neatly boxed, crisply composed, colorful paintings each communicate a small story-within-a-story, richly deserving the close study of voracious young bookworms. If you haven't yet discovered this artist's sweet, funny world, now's the time to be introduced. (Ages 4 to 8) --Karin Snelson