The Leithauser brothers are at it again, which is cause for considerable celebration. The author and illustrator duo of Lettered Creatures have once more collaborated to produce another witty and worldly confection of light verse and delicate drawings. Toad to a Nightingale is a fantastic catalogue of creatures plant, animal, and object on whom poet Brad Leithauser has bestowed song and spirit and his brother Mark beauty and bodily form. The subjects, grouped under the headings Plant Creatures, Four from the Forest Floor, Periodic Riddles, Furnishings of the Moon, Cosmogonies, and Creature Creatures range from the lyrical but lowly (discounted cantaloupes of “Cantaloupes: ‘$1 Each, 3 for $2′”) to the utterly unexpected (“An Alarm Clock Powered by AAA Batteries”).
The verse is clear and charming, the drawings of extraordinary precision and invention. Framing this catalogue of surprises is a spirited exchange between the toad and nightingale, suggesting that a soiled toad can sometimes trump the celestial songbird. With the lightness and lyricism of Mozart and the fantasy and invention of Dalí, these verses and their figurations prove that sibling collaborations can certainly provide their rewards, especially for the reader.