Mary Had a Little Lab

Sue Fliess (How to Trap a Leprechaun) introduces a little girl with brains, ambition and tons of creativity in a rhyming picture book that would make even Dr. Seuss jealous.

Mary loves science, which doesn't make her the most popular kid in the class: "Mary had a little lab./ She tested and created./ While other kids were at the park,/ she built and calculated./ Inventing can be lonely, though." Since she doesn't have any friends, Mary decides to get a pet. But Mary is an inventor. She doesn't visit the local animal shelter or dog breeder to find her new companion; instead she visits a farm to clip a tuft of wool from a sheep. Back in her lab, Mary devises the "sheepinator," an elaborate, Willy Wonka-like machine, and "[s]he pushed the wool into the chute/ and poured the mixture in./ Then pumped the pedals with her feet/ to give it all a spin." And, presto, Mary has her very own sheep.

Readers will singsong along to the tempo of the popular nursery rhyme as Mary's classmates beg her to make sheep for them. Predictably, mayhem ensues. The initial temptation is to speed through the tale to find out what happens--there are sheep everywhere--but the brilliantly detailed and delightfully zany illustrations from Petros Bouloubasis slow the pace. His illustrations pay attention to features as simple as the rivets in the sheepinator or the tape holding pictures on the wall and as amusing as the sheep helping carry groceries or buffing the kitchen floors. This focus on a fully formed illustrative world makes the picture book as fascinating visually as it is plotted. Mary Had a Little Lab is an innovatively fun celebration of smart girls. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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