Mama May has "so many children she couldn't count them all." Annalisa, the most curious and stubborn of the bunch, is never too far from Mama May's side. The red-headed pony-tailed girl observes how Mama May coaxes daily buckets of milk from Luella the cow using soothing words and, to Annalisa's disgust, a kiss on the nose. Eager to learn if she, too, can yield milk from Luella, Annalisa imitates Mama May to the letterDuntil it's time to pucker up. Annalisa's refusal to deliver a bovine buss causes chaosDLuella won't provide any milk and that means lots of "hungry, crying children." Root's (Aunt Nancy and Old Man Trouble) original comic folktale clips along at a jaunty read-aloud pace, befitting the eccentric Mama May and her boisterous brood. Hillenbrand (Down by the Station; The House That Drac Built) obviously delights in depicting the extensive family's full-to-bursting life in his sunny mixed-media paintings. Mama May's "house" is a ramshackle collection of small buildings and add-ons that stretches across a full spread (or as Root describes, "as wide as the prairie"). But best of all are the matriarch's sweet countenance and her passel of childrenDa virtual United Nations of race and nationality, all clad in denim overalls. Youngsters will be rooting right along with them for Annalisa to kiss the cow and save the day. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)
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