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Whatever Happened to My Sister?

Simona Ciraolo. Nobrow/Flying Eye (Consortium, dist.), $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-909263-52-9

As Ciraolo’s second picture book opens, a girl in a blue playsuit is looking at her family photo album. “I’d had my suspicions for a while,” she says, ”that someone had replaced my sister with a girl who looked a lot like her.” The next spread shows her frowning as her lithe preteen sibling reaches into a cupboard: “My sister was never so tall. Did it happen overnight?” The younger sister continues to struggle against the inevitable as the older girl, absorbed in music and a possible crush, says “No” to offers of all their old shared amusements. The more the younger sister considers the transformation, the sadder she grows—until, at her lowest, her sister emerges from her room and offers a new kind of fun. Ciraolo (Hug Me) handles soft crayon with practiced (not to mention fashion-magazine-worthy) skill, drawing domestic scenes and clothing in a palette of warm grays and olives, accented with vivid orange. The advent of adolescence in an older sibling is a less common theme for a picture book, and Ciraolo treats it with style and charm. Ages 5–up. (Nov)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk

Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illus. by Jess Golden. S&S/Beach Lane, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4831-4

Motorized rickshaws are used around the world, and in India and other parts of Southeast Asia they are called tuk tuks. “Tuk tuk wala says ‘Squish in together!’ All through the town,” write the Sehgals (A Bucket of Blessings), a mother-and-son team, in this lovely take on “The Wheels on the Bus,” set in an Indian city. As an overstuffed tuk tuk makes its “bobble-bobble-bobble” way through town, “People in the street jump on and off,” paying their fare with rupees that go “ching ching ching.” Readers get a taste of Indian life as the book nods to Hindi beliefs and customs (the tuk tuk stops for a cow, and readers are taught the greeting “namaste-ji”), poppadoms, and the joyous festival of Diwali. Golden (Snow Dog, Sand Dog)—working in bright watercolors, pastels, and pencils with the texture and hues of Diwali color powder—portrays a busy, friendly metropolis where getting sprayed by an elephant can be par for the course. It’s a wonderfully accessible introduction to daily life in another place. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Waddle! Waddle!

James Proimos. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-545-41846-1

Good news for those with Minion fatigue: Proimos (Year of the Jungle) has come up with three penguins who are right up there in the not-very-bright but goofy-cute department: these polar birds have enormous yellow eyes, operatic temperaments (their shouted exchanges are conducted entirely in capital letters), and love to waddle and belly slide. The action centers on an unnamed penguin who is both euphoric and despondent: the best friend he met the day before, a “spectacular dancer,” is nowhere to be found. His search leads him to two more penguins with talents of their own—one-note singing and horn playing, respectively—but not the twinkle toes he seeks. When a big and hungry polar bear threatens to turn the first penguin into dinner, all three birds become an unbeatable team. If Proimos’s eye-popping comic-book colors, repetition (“Waddle. Waddle. Belly slide!”), and made-to-be-read-aloud text aren’t enough, the final revelation is so silly it’s genius. Ages 4–8. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Two Is Enough

Janna Matthies, illus. by Tuesday Mourning. Running Press, $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7624-5561-4

“Sure as one plus one will always be two,/ Two is enough when it’s me plus you!” writes Matthies (The Goodbye Cancer Garden) in this tribute to single parents and their singleton offspring. The book follows four parent-child dyads, diverse in ethnicity and age, through the seasons. Mourning (Princess Peepers Picks a Pet) renders her characters in full, bright colors, with calm, loving expressions, adding just enough detail to give a sense of time and place. Other than one scene in which a mother comforts her tearful child, the vignettes are devoted to everyday pleasures: a spread reading, “Two is enough for a thistledown wish,/ For passing the ball and playing Go Fish!” shows a close-up of a mother-daughter pair blowing on dandelions on a windy day, while a father and son enjoy a game of cards on a checkered picnic blanket. Matthies never explicitly compares these families to others, nor does she talk about the choices or circumstances that created the pairings. She keeps her message simple and clear: Head counts don’t matter. All you need is love. Ages 3–up. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Spare Parts

Rebecca and Ed Emberley. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-723-4

Somewhere in a ramshackle, all-robot world that looks a lot like a post-human junkyard Earth, Rhoobart is having an existential crisis: “Tarnished and tattered,/ He felt nothing mattered.” Thinking he needs to replace his secondhand heart, Rhoobart goes to the Spare Parts Mart, but not even an encounter with the gruff owner’s version of a junkyard dog—a robotic dragon named Mozart—can make him feel less meh. What finally works is the company of a girl robot named Sweetart, who has “just the right amount of tarnish” and a can-do attitude. “You don’t need a new heart, you just need a jump start,” she tells Rhoobart before administering a literal shock to his system. The father-daughter Emberleys’ (The Crocodile and the Scorpion) mechanized, industrialized world is weirdly beautiful and inventive, composed with a saturated palette and graphic elements in the shapes of jagged scrap, loose gears, and other flotsam (Rhoobart’s facial features are made from a camera’s iris, a rotary phone, and a zipper). But, robotic natures aside, the characters never really come to life. Ages 3–7. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lost. Found.

Marsha Diane Arnold, illus. by Matthew Cordell. Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62672-017-6

A bear in a red scarf trudges through a snowy forest when a cold wind carries the scarf away (“Lost”). The scarf is quickly discovered by two raccoons (“Found”). Except for a few well-placed sound effects, these two alternating words make up the whole of Arnold’s (Roar of a Snore) text, while Cordell (First Grade Dropout) draws a forest full of comedy with scribbly lines that wobble, twist, and leap. The raccoons play tug-of-war with the scarf until one lets go; “chit! chit!” the other scolds. A snowball is thrown, a chase begins, and the scarf becomes everything from a turban to a mouse trampoline. When all of the animals rediscover the scarf at the same time, they pounce, and it’s mayhem and destruction, with mountains of red yarn everywhere. The way the animals make things right with the scarf’s original owner adds sweetness to the mix, but it’s the giggly impulsiveness of the forest’s wildlife that provides the entertainment—the effect is half nature documentary, half Marx Brothers. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Pom Pom Panda Gets the Grumps

Sophy Henn. Philomel, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-17159-8

Pom Pom Panda is a squarish fellow whose blocky head and stubby legs somehow suit his grumpy day, which starts on the wrong side of the bed and gets worse: “Pom Pom’s mom sang silly, soppy songs all through breakfast. His cereal was soggy and there were bits of pulp in his juice.” When Pom Pom’s adorable animal schoolmates swarm around him, offering fun activities, his reaction is predictable: “Go away!” he yells, in a spread backed with angry red. A page turn reveals Pom Pom small and alone against a field of blue: “And they did.” Instead of dwelling on Pom Pom’s loneliness, Henn (Where Bear?) dispenses quickly with his anguish. He repents instantly—“Oops,” he says. “Sorry, everyone”—and is soon back on track (well, almost). Henn is a polished visual storyteller with a firm grasp of pacing and a disciplined approach to text. She supplies enough props to give distinct character to the spreads (and clearly enjoys decorating Pom Pom’s midcentury modern house), yet keeps the pages tidy and legible. Good fun. Ages 3–5. Agent: Paul Moreton, Bell Lomax Moreton Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Cloud Country

Bonny Becker, illus. by Noah Klocek. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4231-5732-8

This entry in the Pixar Animation Studios Artist Showcase series stars a heroine at an important crossroads. It’s Formation School Graduation Day, and all the cloudlets are expected to show their ability to make clouds that go by the book: stratus, cumulonimbus, and so forth. But Gale, a cloudlet who loves nothing better than to gaze down at the Earth, can only make clouds in “Land Below” shapes: a dog, a tugboat, a lamb. Certain that she’s a failure, Gale discovers instead that the ability to make what Becker (the Mouse and Bear series) calls “shapes the world can dream on” is just what her school is looking for. Klocek creates his cloud world out of voluminous, sculptural shapes and shades of white, lavender, and gold, an approach with some shortcomings; the characters feel more statuesque than cloudlike, and the soft palette often makes it difficult to find the focus of each spread. But the book raises an interesting question: What’s more important—technical prowess or the capacity to inspire? Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlson, & Lerner Literary Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Ninja Baby

David Zeltser, illus. by Diane Goode. Chronicle, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4521-3542-7

“When Nina was born, the doctor gently thumped her bottom to make sure she was breathing. Nina karate chopped her right back,” writes Zeltser (Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age) in the opening of his first picture book. What follows is a funny and pitch-perfect story about independence (and its flipside, loneliness), girl power, and sibling rivalry. Nina, a wide-eyed redhead, continues to exhibit impressive ninjalike qualities as she grows: she turns diaper changes into “hand-to-hand combat” and “obliterate[s] her applesauce” with an impressive flying kick. But when a second baby arrives, Nina is flummoxed: how is this “Kung Fu Master” able to manipulate her parents through sheer adorableness? Goode, whose balletic lines and zephyrlike washes of color harken back to her wonderful work in Founding Mothers and other titles, both amplifies the literate, wry text and applies her own visual humor (look at all those swaddling blankets littering the delivery room floor—more of Nina’s post-natal handiwork). A surprise ending proves that these apples don’t fall far from the tree. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Catherine Drayton, Inkwell Management. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Young Enough to Change the World: Stories of Kids and Teens Who Turned Their Dreams into Actions

Michael P. Connolly and Brie K. Goolbis. Hohm/Kalindi, $17.95 (168p) ISBN 978-1-935826-38-5

Connolly and Goolbis profile 15 child and adolescent entrepreneurs, innovators, and activists in uplifting vignettes about the causes they have embraced. Among the subjects are Timmy “Mini” Tyrell, who, at age eight, began raising funds to fight cancer by racing his go-kart; Dylan Mahalingam, who, at nine, helped collect more than $11 million in relief funds for victims of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami; and 17-year-old Priscilla Acuna Mena, who established a service camp in West Java in Indonesia to give her privileged peers “a chance to work with needy children and get to know them.” While the tone occasionally can be condescending (“We all know how short the attention span of a seven year old can be, but not so with this little girl”), these stories of innovation and determination are heartening. Ages 12–up. (June)

Reviewed on 08/21/2015 | Details & Permalink

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