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Utah author publishes two new picture books

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

Ken Baker is a Utah author with two new picture books in print. Each is illustrated by digitally rendered cartoon-like pictures. One meets the criteria for a successful picture book; the other does not.

OLD MACDONALD HAD A DRAGON,” by Ken Baker, illustrated by Christopher Santoro, Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99 (ages 3-6)

“Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.”

That’s the beginning of the traditional verse in which farm animals are introduced, one by one. But when Farmer MacDonald acquires a dragon, all the farm animals are alarmed and disappear, one by one.

Utah author Ken Baker gives a new twist to an old nonsense song with a sudden conclusion that will assuredly bring giggles and demands to “read it again!”

The clever script is laced with puns, such as the cow having a “beef” with Old MacDonald, who retorts that the animal is “bull-headed.” Reading aloud is a must to catch the delicious alliterations in which the “dragon wilted its wings and waddled away,” or “With a lick of its lips and a flash of fire, it flapped its wings and flew away….”

Flashy, bold, digitally rendered cartoon-like artwork captures the humor and carries the story through a fresh new version that will delight young listeners who may want to sing and act out the whole adventure.

COW CAN’T SLEEP,” by Ken Baker, illustrated by Steve Gray, Amazon Children’s Publishing, $12.99 (ages 3-6)

What is a cow to do if she can’t sleep in a bed of hay because it is too scratchy? Most bovines would find another place to retire, and that’s what Belle tries to do. But all of the better, softer spots have problems too: for example, the nice feathered mattress is lumpy and loud (it is a nest of ducks) and the soft bed of mud bubbles, gurgles and stinks (it is a pig pen). Problems with beds, one after another, finally find resolutions, but not to everyone’s liking.

Baker’s spunky story moves through a farmyard at a pace just right for young listeners. But unlike “Old MacDonald Had a Dragon,” one reading will probably be enough. The garish cartoon creatures don’t invite interest, especially Belle, who has few similarities to a cow and is even an exaggerated caricature: her features lack humor and are grotesque.

“Cow Can’t Sleep" is an example of a children's story in which text and art fail to mesh to form a delightful picture book.

Email: marilousorensen@ymail.com

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