Joost Elffers and Saxton Freymann first revealed how peppers, pears, and potatoes could magically take on expressive faces and lively personalities in Play with Your Food. Since then, they've put their portraiture skills to good use telling fun kids' stories like this, populated by all manner of anthropomorphic produce.
Gus and his dog, Button, (with black-eyed peas for eyes) live in a drab little mushroom town until one day a storm blows a mysterious bright green object by their window. Gus then becomes inspired to venture out into the world, through the Howling Forest: "Gus knew it was a dangerous place where he must never go. 'But I must find out,' said Gus, 'where things this bright can grow.'" And so begins his adventure, past Howell the Wolf (a sly artichoke), into the arms of new friends Cecil, Pip, and Belle (a good-natured green apple, a toothy orange, and a wide-eyed red pepper, respectively), and on to the bustling city of Cornucopia.
Elffers and Freymann pack each page with scores of different fruits and vegetables, from Swiss chard to star fruit to patty pan squash, and even the backdrops brim with ingenuity. (Are those mushroom capitals on celery pillars? Is that river really made out of red cabbage?) Although you'll almost certainly risk some subsequent food play, Gus and Button are pals worth joining for a trip. (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes