In this poetic picture-book romp, an agitated, fidgety flea jumps directly into the path of a grasshopper, which sets off a comical, commotion-filled chain reaction, with each successive leap more dramatic than the one before.
The jostled grasshopper lands precariously on a blade of grass before springing onto the noggin of a rabbit. In short order, the bunny bounds, inciting a dog to plunge into a lake, which causes flip-flopping fish “to knock off a bullfrog’s / lily-pad crown.” The churlish amphibian winds up in front of a “high-strung horse, / standing to drink / after running her course” and sends the startled filly galloping. Waiting by the fence, with ears cocked for more adventure, the dog sets chase again. When the pooped pooch takes a breather, the flea that started all of the hullaballoo seizes the opportunity to hitch a ride. In a satisfying finale to this exuberant game of tag, both dog and flea hunker down in a mossy knoll and fall asleep.
The brilliance of this deceptively simple circular tale is apparent when read aloud. Toronto’s JonArno Lawson, a Governor General’s Literary Award winner for Sidewalk Flowers, is a sound-poet maestro. Every syllable is pitch-perfectly orchestrated. Onomatopoeic words pack a sonic punch: “Tails go smack! Silvery skins – / slippery slap!” Vivid images are created by clever wordplay: “The pond prince shows / his inflatable frown”; “webbed feet flatten, / cheeks re-fatten”; and “Lever-legs twitch.” Rising and falling, the controlled rhythms build anticipation (“Suddenly haunches / tauten tight to”), and the page turn triumphantly reveals where the exclamatory “LEAP!” lands.
Josée Bisaillon’s gorgeous mixed-media collages are completely in tune with the hurly-burly action of the verse. Full of motion, the illustrations jump off the page and beyond the frame. Captured mid-lunge, the dog’s muscular hindquarters soar across the airy white space. Swampy-green frog’s legs, splayed akimbo, scramble up and out the top of the book, leaving behind a trail of ink-splattered watermarks.
Bursting with energy and fun, Leap! will undoubtedly get the story-time crowd moving and shaking.