By Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman
Harper, $16.99, ages 9-12
A bright blue bird on a yellow cover seems to promise a simple picture book. What transpires between the covers, with 13 words such as "haberdashery," "panache," "despondent" or "mezzo-soprano" structuring the story, is a winning combination of Lemony Snicket's wry narrative tone and Maira Kalman's droll pictures. Kalman's picture of the "despondent" participant, the blue bird, shows a tiny black cloud raining on the bird that is perched on a can of "mushy peas." Not a simple story, but satisfying.