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*Peanut* by David Lucas
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by David Lucas
Ages 4-8 32 pages Candlewick October 2008 Hardcover    

A flower grows and opens in the sun to reveal a small monkey - no bigger than a pea - tucked inside. In the warmth of the sun, the little monkey soon grows as big and golden brown as a nut. He names himself Peanut, for he doesnít know that heís a monkey and not a peanut.

Soon the little monkeyís wonderment at his surroundings gave way to fear. Peanut fears the floor is made of air. He fears that wild animals will eat him. When the wind blows, he worries that the tree in which he lives is about to fall over. When it rains, he fears that the sky is falling down. When the sun sets, he thinks that the sky is on fire. Peanut is a very anxious little monkey.

As he shuts his eyes and waits for the world to end, a beetle squeezes by him in the darkness of the night. Peanut is so startled that he lets go of his grip on the tree, toppling himself and the beetle from the branch. Luckily, Peanut is able to catch another branch and save himself and the beetle, thus making a new friend with whom to explore the world safely.

David Lucasís oil paintings of the forest and its inhabitants are so luminous that they appear to be back-lit. Peanut and his neighbors are beautifully imagined, painted in warm colors and lovely textures. Itís truly a pleasure to look at the artwork in this book.

Unfortunately, the plot and its execution donít manage to hold up their end of the bargain. Peanut is anxious to the point of being utterly neurotic. I doubt many children will derive much joy from reading this catalogue of his numerous and paralyzing fears, or be able to identify with his heightened fear of everything. We almost reach the end of the tale before Peanut finally interacts with another denizen of his forest. While an adult or older child might see some humor in Peanutís exaggerated fears, a young child might be left baffled - or worse, become anxious in turn.

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  Usha Reynolds/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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