By Simon Puttock
Pictures by Nadia Shireen
Nosy Crow, 2012
$15.99, ages 3 and up, 32 pages
Yearning for a fawn of their own, a deer couple takes in a furry, abandoned baby, then can't figure out why their baby's caretakers keep disappearing.
In this adorable picture book by Scottish author Simon Puttock, Mr. and Mrs. Deer are so delighted to find a baby at their door that they miss all of the warning signs that the baby's a monster.
His fur is shaggy and blue, his antlers are sewn from knit cloth and he has a toothy under bite, yet all they see is a dear, defenseless little orphan.
Sure, he doesn't look exactly like them, and at first Mr. Deer scratches his head, trying to pin down what's different about him. But Mrs. Deer will have nothing to do with doubt. Shooing away Mr. Deer's concerns, she proclaims that all babies are beautiful. And with that, Mr. Deer seems to think so too.
It doesn't hurt that pinned to the baby's blanket is a tender, hand-written note, "I am a dear little baby. Please love me and cuddle me and read me lots and lots of stories." The problem is, this baby isn't the cooing sort and soon all sorts of odd things start happening.
When Mrs. Deer puts the baby down in his laundry basket (which fits him much better than bed), he starts roaring. Ah! He must be hungry -- after all "babies usually are." So why then is he tossing up everything she feeds him? The cheese, the toast, the cucumbers?
Desperate to make this work, Mr. and Mrs. Deer assume that they're the ones who are doing something wrong, so they call on four friends for help them.
Uncle Duncan, an owl, thinks the baby just needs milk, Aunt Agnes, a bunny, thinks he has a dirty diaper and Dr. Fox believe he just needs to examine him. But every time Mr. and Mrs. Deer leave the room, their friends disappear. How will they ever calm their baby? Surely Granny Bear, a bear, will know what to do.
And indeed she does and immediately starts to burp him. As Granny pats the baby over her shoulder, the baby's eyes cross and his cheeks swell like green apples. Then suddenly. Splat. All of Mr. and Mrs. Deers friends coming flying out of his mouth and across a two-page spread in an explosion of green goo.
"'That's not a dear little baby!' cried Granny Bear. 'That is a LITTLE MONSTER!" And in a flash, the baby monster scrambles away into the forest never to be seen again. Well, so Mr. and Mrs. Deer think.
Isn't it curious that a new baby kitten has shown up on their porch with the same toothy mouth?
This is a silly, fun story about wanting something so badly that you ignore all the reasons not to get it.
Illustrator Nadia Shireen gives the monster Uglydoll appeal: bulging eyes, some cute teeth and a body that looks more like it would wobble than pounce.
This a story that makes scary cute and brings on the giggles.