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One Family

George Shannon, illus. by Blanca Gomez. FSG/Foster, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30003-6

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Shannon’s (Hands Say Love) message is clear: no matter how many people there are in a family, what color they are, or what ages they are, they’re still a family. An Asian mother and child romp on hobby horses before bedtime: “One is two./ One pair of shoes. One team of horses./ One family.” Gomez’s (Besos for Baby) combinations of families from one to 10 present lots of possibilities—grandparents and children, fathers in turbans, single-parent families, families whose members don’t look alike at all. Linking them to ways of counting groups of familiar things (“One is five./ One bunch of bananas. One hand of cards./ One family”), Shannon’s blank verse brings home the idea of unity in multiplicity. Gomez’s figures have a pleasing, doll-like look, with round heads whose features convey friendliness. Her scenes of city life are imbued with warmth, comfort, and a kind of universality—there’s little obvious luxury or poverty. It’s a quiet vision of a world in which every family is accepted. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Mary Cummings, Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Astrid the Fly

Maria Jönsson, trans. from the Swedish by Christina Reiss. Holiday House, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3200-4

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This bubbly creation is Swedish artist’s Jönsson’s first as an author-illustrator, and it’s a treat. “I am Astrid,” announces a voice emerging from an apparently empty living room, “and this is my sofa.” Closer up, a small black object can be seen darting through the air. “I am a fly,” she announces. With a loose line, Jönsson draws Astrid at ease on her sofa; she has huge eyes, a bristly topknot, and gossamer wings. She also has 43 siblings and special fly names for terrifying objects: a flyswatter is “the Big Bang,” and the vacuum is “the Horrible Inhaling Machine.” The charm of the story lies in seeing domestic life through Astrid’s eyes as she sits serenely upside-down on the ceiling, looks at herself in the bathroom’s “see-me glass” (“Hi, gorgeous!”), and describes favorite foods like “sweet wet things” (soda). In the story’s only sustained episode, Astrid describes the terrible night in the refrigerator that put her off Danish salami forever. Those who happen upon this unexpected tell-all will vote Astrid their favorite representative of the genus drosophila. Ages 3–6. (May)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Templeton Gets His Wish

Greg Pizzoli. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4847-1274-0

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Pizzoli (Number One Sam) juices up the be-careful-what-you-wish-for theme with sly humor and a midcentury aesthetic that expresses itself in a vibrant palette of 1950s kitchen-appliance colors and bold, graphic forms. A tangerine-colored cat named Templeton is plagued by parents who order him to bathe and clean up, and brothers who steal his toys. But when he wishes them all away (thanks to a “magic diamond” he orders in the mail, funded by raiding his brother’s piggy bank), he soon discovers that the house is pretty lonely. “There was no one to play with. And he was starting to think he might need a bath after all,” writes Pizzoli as a bird nests on Templeton’s head and flies buzz around him. “Templeton was alone,” reads a spread dulled by the dismal gray of night, delivering a one-two punch as Templeton stares out glumly from his house’s single lighted window. Luckily, the magic diamond lets him wish his family back. Cheerful entertainment, with just a touch of snark. Ages 3–5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Book of Languages: Talk Your Way Around the World

Mick Webb. Owlkids (PGW, dist.), $17.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-77147-155-8

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Webb provides a solid introduction to world languages using charts, sidebars, and maps. Following an opening sections discussing the importance of language, its evolution, language families, and invented languages (such as Tolkien’s Elvish and Star Trek’s Klingon), Webb moves on to examine the history, pronunciations, and characteristics of 21 verbal languages including Arabic, Zulu, Russian, and Hindi-Urdu. The graphic format allows for easy comparison between languages, allowing readers to flip back and forth to study how greetings, numbers, and simple conversations vary between languages. Sign language, semaphore, Morse code, and even animal communication (like the “waggle dance” of honeybees) get brief treatment in pages devoted to nonverbal languages. Would-be polyglots ought to find it “Harika!” (that’s Turkish for great). Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Ticket Around the World

Natalia Diaz and Melissa Owens, illus. by Kim Smith. Owlkids
(PGW, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-77147-051-3

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An unnamed boy with a mop of chestnut brown hair visits friends in 13 countries, offering readers a world tour via his first-person narration as he samples foods, views landmarks, and attends cultural events, among other activities. Diaz and Owens supplement the boy’s descriptions with introductions to each nation (“Jordan is ruled by a monarchy, which means that the king or queen in charge makes important decisions for the country”) and sidebars. In Brazil, the boy and a girl named Fernanda canoe down the Amazon River; in China, he celebrates the Chinese New Year with his friend Xiao’s family; and he swims at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with an aboriginal boy, Joe. Smith’s digital cartoons create a cozy atmosphere and, because the boy is never identified by name or native country, the book can easily appeal beyond an American readership. Ages 5–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Around the World: A Colorful Atlas for Kids

Anita Ganeri, illus. by Christopher Corr. Albert Whitman, $17.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-8075-0443-7

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Small iconlike images pepper this inviting atlas, rendered in a folk-art style and painted in a vibrant palette of bright pinks, blues, oranges, and greens. Six overarching sections cover the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the poles, within which Ganeri and Corr focus on specific regions and nations. Ganeri supplements informational passages with questions (“What color is Sweden’s flag?”), seek-and-find prompts, and quizzes, while Corr’s tiny images highlight cultural, ecological, and historical characteristics of individual countries. Labeled images of a tiger, cricket player, and the Taj Mahal appear across India, and manga figures, Mt. Fuji, and sushi are among the images helping represent Japan. Striking a neat balance between artistry and geographical detail, it’s an appealing resource for visual learners. Ages 4–7. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World

Marianne Berkes, illus. by Jill Dubin. Dawn, $8.95 paper (32p) ISBN 978-1-58469-519-6

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As she has done in Over in a River, Over in the Ocean, and other titles, Berkes adapts the song “Over in the Meadow,” for an animal-centric counting book, this time introducing 20 animals that live in mountainous regions throughout of the world. Ten—including panda, ibex, and wombat families—are the focus of her stanzas, while 10 more are hidden in the images for readers to locate. While Berkes’s phrasings can be convoluted (“Over on a mountain/ With his mate, a female ‘hen,’/ Lived a father emperor penguin/ And his little chicks ten”), those familiar with the song shouldn’t have trouble following along. Dubin’s richly textured torn-paper collages provide ample visual interest, and substantial appended resources about the animals and their habitats’ offer additional avenues for children to engage. Ages 3–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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School Days Around the World

Margriet Ruurs, illus. by Alice Feagan. Kids Can, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-77138-047-8

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In this companion to Children Around the World and Families Around the World, Ruurs introduces 14 children from various countries, based on real individuals, who describe what school is like for them. Feagan’s crisp, digitally assembled cut-paper collages give the children cheerful, puppetlike appearances and provide a sense of school environments that range from a fancy German boarding school to the house where two homeschooled Alaskan girls study. Mathii, who lives at an orphanage in Kenya, describes his morning routine (“The sun is barely up when I hurry to school to sweep the floors”), while in Shanghai, a boy named Lu explains that “classical music plays over the intercom” at his public school between classes. A lighthearted overview of school-day life that will leave readers considering how their routines compare to those of their global peers. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Bigfoot Is Missing!

J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt, illus. by MinaLima. Chronicle, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4521-1895-6

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Lewis and Nesbitt, the former and current U.S. Children's Poets Laureate, present a mischievous and slightly edgy introduction to 18 "crypids,” animals "whose real existence has not yet been proven.” Their rhymes take the form of wanted posters, newspaper clippings, posted signs, news broadcasts, and more, brought to bold, graphic life by MinaLima, the British design team of Miraphona Mina and Eduardo Lima. Fittingly, readers never get a good look at any of the creatures—usually just a coiled tail here or a cluster of spikes there. The Congolese Mokèlé-mbèmbé peers from behind a newspaper, whose lead story trumpets, "Here at Lake Telé,/ secluded in swamps,/ this missing celebrity/ privately romps.” Elsewhere, a winged creature slinks from a store shelf crowded with cans of "Moth-Away!/ Mothman Spray/ Keeps all ten-foot/ moths at bay.” These brief, playful poems will whet readers' appetites to learn more about bunyips, luscas, and Mongolian death worms. Luckily, endpages supply legends and details about these and other creatures, including where they can—or rather can't—be found. Ages 7–10. Agent: (for Lewis) Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown; (for Nesbitt) Jill Corcoran, Jill Corcoran Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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How to Win at High School

Owen Matthews. HarperTeen, $17.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-233686-6

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Starting his junior year at new school, Adam Higgs is a loser, and he knows it. He barely has any friends, has never been kissed, and has started working at Pizza Hut. After Adam devises a lucrative homework-selling scheme, suddenly he has an adorable girlfriend and is getting invited to the best parties, but this taste of fame and wealth leads him down a path of escalating risk, selling fake IDs and drugs. In chapters often no longer than a few paragraphs, Matthews (who writes adult thrillers as Owen Laukkanen) employs an irreverent narrative that makes it seem as though readers are seeing Adam through the shrewd perspective of a slacker sitting in the back of class ("You probably figured this out already, but, our boy doesn't get to many parties”). Witnessing Adam's descent into delinquency is both painful to watch and addictive. Straddling poetry and prose, the funny, unforgiving narration will have readers glued to this story about the rise and fall of an unlikely high school kingpin. Ages 14–up. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/27/2015 | Details & Permalink

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