You never know what sort of story will inspire a creative imagination. Who could have predicted that a writer and illustrator would unite to resurrect a classic nursery rhyme about athletic livestock and kidnapped eating utensils? Go figure. Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel have created a classy and amusing update in And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon. The book would be worthwhile just for the pictures of the character Fork, who cavorts (as much as a legless utensil can cavort) in Technicolor shirts and shades that look like Don Ho activewear.

We all know the story. It ends with the Dish running away with the Spoon, and usually they return so the rhyme can be read again. Unfortunately, one day Dish and Spoon don't return. They are nowhere to be found. Cat explains the problem to the skeptical Dog: "It's the way our rhyme goes. I fiddle, she jumps, you laugh, they run . . . Without Dish and Spoon, there's no rhyme. No more diddle diddle. It's over." Both Cow and Dog suggest alternative endings to the rhyme, but Cat insists that they stop fiddling around. Shameless puns abound in this book, both in the text and in the revised and extended rhyme that accompanies it.

On their quest the animals encounter all sorts of figures from Mother Goose. Fork recognizes the Spoon because they were originally from the same place setting. To help, Fork draws a map, which includes everything from the Three Bears' house to Little Bo Peep's pasture. The legend at the bottom explains the unit of measure: a crooked mile. Spider complains about Miss Muffet's aloofness. Wolf wears bunny slippers, and hanging on his coat tree in the foyer is a button-up sheep suit. In one house bobtailed blind mice lurk in the corners. The author and illustrator, who are sisters, must have enjoyed creating this book.

Let's make the bottom line of this review explicit: Children will love this book, but no more than the adults who read it to them.

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