If you’re in the market for a new picture book, the gentle illustrator Elisha Cooper has two to choose from. Beaver Is Lost is a journey told almost entirely without words: Beaver hops onto a log, then onto a logging truck, and finds himself in a city. How will he (she?) get home? My 3-year-old nephew and 5-year-old niece tracked each step of the trip, picking up on the clues knit into the illustrations. "He found his friends!" they cheered in relief and triumph at the end. Just in case there’s any doubt, Cooper has written "Home" on the last page. Always the best destination.
The cover of Farm invited us in with a brilliantly colorful rooster. He proved to be our nephew’s favorite character, or rather characters: Inside are two roosters, named Breakfast and Biggie, except we decided that Piggie sounded better-in fact, as a pair, Breakfast and Piggie were riotously funny. Cooper’s text is mostly practical rather than lyrical, and after sitting through a page or two about tilling, my niece asked why this wasn’t a rhyming book. Maybe she missed the poetry of the Big Red Barn. But we did talk about the construction of a three-legged chair (in the barn) and how a field could go from the color of milk chocolate to dark chocolate without actually being made of chocolate itself. Like Farmer Boy for the youngest set.