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Bernard Waber
Lyle Crocodile
Ask Me by Bernard Waber illustrated by Suzy Lee

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“Ask Me” has no plot. Nothing revelatory happens. The entire book unfolds in dialogue. No quotation marks are used; the conversation floats along the pages. Through these ordinary exchanges, Waber conveys a close, affectionate familial bond and a child’s relentless inquisitiveness and energy.

The daughter goes on to name more of what she likes: riding merry-go-round horses, digging in the sand, the color red, stories about bears; and what she loves, including flowers and ice cream cones — yet the father never loses patience. He clearly enjoys asking her questions, and he appreciates her delight. They are smiling on every page.

At one point, he tells her why birds build nests: “So they will have a safe place to lay their eggs.” The girl responds, “I knew that.” “Why did you ask?” he says. “Because I like to hear you tell it.” It’s a wonderful moment. Next comes a two-page spread, which contains no words. Amid a splendor of vermilion, orange, gold and green, the father and daughter lie blissfully in the grass, their shoes kicked off. The scene shows them relaxed and happy to be in the presence of each other. Their walk will go on — but for now, perhaps they are pausing to reflect on all they’ve seen and done.

Waber wrote more than 30 books for children, including his classic “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” series. He died at 91 in 2013, and the posthumously published “Ask Me” reminds us of his subtle humor and tremendous empathy.

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Sunday New York Times Book Review