Based on an unlucky number of key words and authored by someone who takes pleasure in unfortunate events, this volume conjures a sense of foreboding. “Word Number 1: Bird” introduces the central character, and the accompanying illustration pictures a royal-blue bird perched on a linen tablecloth, in a yellow-and-pink dining room that might have been painted by Matisse. The bird’s eye droops sadly, whereupon readers turn to “Word Number 2: Despondent” and “Word Number 3: Cake,” an item that might alleviate a bird’s ennui, at least temporarily. Despite ominous beginnings, the proceedings turn upbeat with the arrival of a chic “Word Number 4: Dog,” who concocts witty diversions for the gloomy bird. Kalman’s eccentric gouaches elevate the wintry mood; the dog, with his sly grin, resembles Kalman’s Max, particularly when he tries on hats at “Word Number 9: Haberdashery.” Sprinkled with additional vocab words like “spiffy” and featuring surreal landscapes in ice-cream hues, this word-association game recalls Kalman’s solo productions. The conclusion, however, belongs to Snicket, because “the bird, to tell you the truth, is still a little despondent.” All ages. (Oct.)
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