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Your Alien

Tammi Sauer, illus. by Goro Fujita. Sterling, $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4549-1129-6

It’s best-friendship at first contact after a flying saucer crashes outside a boy’s house, and a Little Green Man with a white jumpsuit and a snaggletoothed smile emerges. In second-person narration that has an understated tenderness, Sauer (Nugget and Fang) follows the two through the day. The boy’s parents don’t notice the new arrival, his classmates are mesmerized, and “As for your teacher? She’ll think she needs new glasses.” Beyond the evident warmth Fujita (the Robots Rule series) creates between alien and boy, he has a real way with light; the passage of time is almost tangible in the way sunlight streams through windows or wanes as the friends race down a hill flying a kite. And when the alien’s homesickness sets in, it’s light—specifically every light in the boy’s house, as well as “a few extras here and there” (think Christmas in July)—that attracts the attention of two green parents eager to find their child. Not since E.T. has extraterrestrial entertainment stood such a good chance of making kids (and their parents) tear up. Ages 3–up. Author’s agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Fun Book of Scary Stuff

Emily Jenkins, illus. by Hyewon Yum. FSG/Foster, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30000-5

Green-faced witches, forest trolls, and a shark make appearances in this frank assessment of scary things, conducted by a child, a bull terrier, and a pug. “Dad says I should make a list of everything that frightens me. He says it will help me be brave,” says the child. “Your dad is weird,” the bull terrier replies. As the dogs and child carry on a voice-balloon discussion, monsters materialize along the walls of the child’s room; airy white backgrounds keep the spaces reassuringly well-lit. The pug takes a pragmatic view (“What’s so bad about ghosts?”), and the bull terrier acts tough (“You keep being scared of stuff that probably doesn’t exist”). When it comes to “stuff that definitely exists,” like a bullying cousin and bigger dogs, the terrier and pug are supportive; when they all step into a dark closet, even the bull terrier quakes until the child turns on the light. United, the three acknowledge their anxieties and defeat the creepy. With humor and logic in their arsenal, Jenkins (A Fine Dessert) and Yum (The Twins’ Little Sister) demystify fear in this encouraging show-and-tell. Ages 3–6. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Emergency Vehicles

Rod Green, illus. by Stephen Biesty. Candlewick/Templar, $15.99 (16p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7959-0

A firefighting jet engine, a Tamar-class lifeboat, and an ambulance helicopter are among the eight rescue vessels readers can study in this oversize board book, which features more than 40 flaps that show internal mechanisms, crew members, and equipment. A spread devoted to the NATO Submarine Rescue System highlights the multiple vehicles that can spring into action if a submarine sinks. Descriptive text appears underneath each flap: “Each of the four engines is as powerful as 18 average car engines,” writes Green about the Ranger 4200-class fireboats in New York Harbor. Cutaway views and step-by-step descriptions of the rescue processes bring readers close to the action, and Green’s captions provide abundant information about each vehicle, while identifying and explaining every detail in Biesty’s pen-and-pencil illustrations. Readers with dreams of saving the day will find plenty to get their engines running. Ages 5–9. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Alice in Wonderland: With Three Dimensional Pop-Up Scenes

Lewis Carroll, illus. by Maria Taylor. Tango (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $24.99 (24p) ISBN 978-1-85707-814-5

In time for the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, four key moments from the story—including Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole and her croquet match with the Queen of Hearts—play out in gracefully crafted scenes that expand in an accordion-like fashion when readers pull two tabs. A tidily abridged retelling fills in the gaps surrounding these events, accented by Taylor’s spot illustrations, which depict such scenes as the pool of tears and the mad tea party. Alice appears as a somewhat stiff, doll-like girl in an A-line dress, while other chief characters include a hawkish Hatter and a glowering Queen of Hearts. Though the pop-up vignettes may be the main draw for many readers, this abridgement is still an accessible entry point into the larger story. Ages 5–up. (June)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Black Plus: A Cut-Paper Book

Annette Tamarkin. Tango (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $8.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-909142-00-8

Belgian cut-paper artist Tamarkin combines subtle paper engineering with boldly contrasting colors in this playful wordless offering. Flaps incorporated into black animal silhouettes lead to colorful transformations. An elephant’s ear opens to show a purple polka-dot interior with a heart at its center, and a black butterfly turns lavender, dotted with large, brightly colored spots (a tiny ladybug also appears to be hitching a ride) when readers flip its wing. Lifting the flap on a cat’s head reveals a yellow face with a heart-shaped nose and teardrop eyes, making it seem as though the cat has turned its head to look back at the reader. The glued-in dots, hearts, and other shapes add an additional understated tactile element to this engaging interplay between shapes and colors. Available simultaneously: White Plus. Ages 3–up. (July)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Big Bot, Small Bot: A Book of Robot Opposites

Marc Rosenthal. PowerHouse/Pow!, $17.95 (16p) ISBN 978-1-57687-750-0

Eight charmingly eccentric robots demonstrate opposing words in this humorous lift-the-flap book. Lifting the top of a “big” robot that resembles a Big Green Egg grill reveals a “small” pink robot waving from inside its belly (the size of the typography helps highlight the concept, too). A robot with a pointy, steeple-like head gets “wet” in the rain, but a flap shows that its headpiece doubles as an umbrella to keep it “dry.” And a “happy” bucket-headed bot licks its robo-lips as it prepares to eat its ice cream cone, but a flap turn shows it “sad” when the scoops topple off the cone. A cheeky finale (a copper robot shows off the “front” of Rosenthal’s book to a crowd of robots while showing its “back” end to readers) caps this quirky exploration of opposites. Ages 2–5. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties (June)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Who’s Hungry?

Dean Hacohen, illus. by Sherry Scharschmidt. Candlewick, $9.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6586-9

The team behind Tuck Me In! (2010) returns with another lift-the-flap title—one that lets readers help feed some hungry animals. Seven sweet, wide-eyed animals respond one by one as an assuring voice asks if anyone is hungry. “I am! I would love a fresh fish, please,” says a seal, while a horse announces that he likes to eat hay, and a gray squirrel asks for an acorn. Like an exuberant camp counselor, the off-screen narrator ensures that each animal is taken care of: “There’s plenty more, Panda! Who else is hungry?” By flipping large flaps that cover the bottom third of each page, readers make a banana appear in a monkey’s hands and drop a carrot in front of a rabbit. A natural pick for toddlers, who will enjoy taking on the role of caretaker for this needy menagerie. Up to age 3. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Into the Dangerous World

Julie Chibbaro, illus. by J.M. Superville Sovak. Viking, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3910-9

Seventeen-year-old Ror grew up on a Staten Island commune, but she, her mother, and her older sister must move into an SRO in Manhattan after her father commits suicide by burning down the house they built. Set in 1984, amid the thriving street culture of New York City, Chibbaro's gritty novel follows Ror as she figures out what type of artist she wants to become while using her drawing to channel her grief. Illustrator Sovak, Chibbaro's husband and collaborator on 2011's Deadly, skillfully conveys Ror's artistic talent in vibrant and emotionally resonant b&w sketches. The adults in Ror's life want her to pursue traditional art, but she sees graffiti everywhere, and it fascinates her, as does Trey, a neighbor and fellow art student. Ror's attempts to fit in with Trey and his graffiti crew reflect her unbiased love of art and her struggle to discover where she belongs. Period references (Blondie, Keith Haring, the Reagan administration) provide context, yet the book feels modern and relevant as this striking combination of story and illustration creates a powerful portrait of a budding artist. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure

Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio Garc%C3%ADa S%C3%A1nchez. Toon (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 (52p) ISBN 978-1-935179-81-8

In an emotionally astute (and geographically useful) comic, which incorporates archival photographs, subway maps, and other materials, Pablo’s family moves so frequently that he is determined not to become attached to anyone or anything—even New York City. During a field trip to the Empire State Building on his first day of school, Pablo shrugs off his classmate Alicia’s attempts to befriend him, as well as his enthusiastic teacher’s history lessons en route. After Pablo and Alicia accidentally get on an express train and watch their classmates and teacher pull away on the local, Pablo’s frustrations come to a head: he storms away from Alicia at Times Square and has to find his own way to the Empire State Building. Sánchez uses a mix of full spreads and panels, depicting myriad dramas unfolding on (and below) the streets. With humor and sensitivity, Spiegelman reveals how getting lost can be the first step toward finding your way—while also giving NYC residents and visitors alike a valuable primer on the subway system and its history. A Spanish-language edition is available simultaneously. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure

Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio Garc%C3%ADa S%C3%A1nchez. Toon (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 (52p) ISBN 978-1-935179-81-8

In an emotionally astute (and geographically useful) comic, which incorporates archival photographs, subway maps, and other materials, Pablo’s family moves so frequently that he is determined not to become attached to anyone or anything—even New York City. During a field trip to the Empire State Building on his first day of school, Pablo shrugs off his classmate Alicia’s attempts to befriend him, as well as his enthusiastic teacher’s history lessons en route. After Pablo and Alicia accidentally get on an express train and watch their classmates and teacher pull away on the local, Pablo’s frustrations come to a head: he storms away from Alicia at Times Square and has to find his own way to the Empire State Building. Sánchez uses a mix of full spreads and panels, depicting myriad dramas unfolding on (and below) the streets. With humor and sensitivity, Spiegelman reveals how getting lost can be the first step toward finding your way—while also giving NYC residents and visitors alike a valuable primer on the subway system and its history. A Spanish-language edition is available simultaneously. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/22/2015 | Details & Permalink

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