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Goatilocks and the Three Bears

Erica S. Perl, illus. by Arthur Howard. S&S/Beach Lane, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4424-0168-6

Goldilocks as a goat? It’s unlikely casting, but Perl (Chicken Butt!) and Howard (Mr. Putter and Tabby) pull it off with abundant good humor. Perl’s conversational prose acknowledges readers’ familiarity with the storyline: “When the bears went out for a walk one morning... well, you can probably guess what Goldilocks did.” It’s not too outrageous that Goatilocks eats the spoon along with Baby Bear’s porridge (the bowl soon disappears, as well), but what really brings the laughs is that Goatilocks also eats Baby Bear’s chair and bed after finding them “just right.” The story’s colloquial tone (“Hey, where’s my chair?” complains Baby Bear) and Howard’s (Mr. Putter and Tabby) freewheeling watercolors create a rollicking atmosphere. Goatilocks has expressive googly eyes, pink ears, and a polka-dot bow around her neck, while the bears, with their broad, round features, could have stepped out of a recent Charmin ad. The ending plays on Goatilocks’s indiscriminating appetite, and kids won’t be surprised by what happens to the flowers she brings the bears in apology. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Carrie Hannigan, Hannigan Salky Getzler. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Food Trucks!

Mark Todd. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-15784-2

Todd follows 2003’s Monster Trucks! with an ode to a category of vehicles that wasn’t even in the public consciousness when the previous book was published. Now, food trucks are omnipresent in many American cities, offering grilled cheese, tacos, and more for citizens on the go. Todd profiles 14 vehicles, giving each a name, brief poem, and large anthropomorphic portrait in a bold cartooning style that recalls the urban-themed books of Brian Biggs and Robert Neubecker. There’s Mr. Cobb, a “green powered” salad truck with tomatoes and broccoli bursting from its roof and what appears to be a kale tailfin (kalefin?). On the other end of the spectrum, a powder blue ice-cream truck, Ice Queen, grins manically (“You’re in luck!/ The ice cream truck/ Is heading to your neighborhood”). Floating cloud-shaped captions share tidbits about food-themed holidays, potentially unfamiliar dishes (like couscous and naan), and various real-life food trucks. While a few of the rhymes feel forced (“Try the samosa/ A pastry that most love”), there’s plenty of personality in Todd’s quirky fleet of trucks. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jason Grode, Grodehouse. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut EVER!

Jeff Cohen, illus. by Elanna Allen. Harper, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-224906-7

With the authority that only a big sister can have, Sadie has decided that her younger sister’s Eva’s Rapunzel-like tresses are “too long, too curly, and way too MUCH.” Taking matters and scissors into her own hands, she gives Eva her first haircut—and, of course, it goes “terribly wrong” (although, as portrayed, it’s short but not exactly horrifying). But while the girls’ parents briefly “lose their cool,” it is only hair, and the repair haircut is downright stylish. “[N]ow that Eva’s hair is short, we can’t imagine it any other way,” says Sadie. Allen (Itsy Mitsy Runs Away) has fun giving Eva’s hair a life of its own—one of her pre-haircut ’dos is worthy of the 18th-century French court, and Sadie asks the fateful question, “Do you want a haircut?” while peering from the dense, blonde depths of her sister’s curls. But newcomer Cohen’s story quickly turns into a mild-mannered domestic sitcom with sunny cartooning and a bright, chatty voice that feels more adult than kidlike. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Sleep Tight, Anna Banana!

Dominique Roques, trans. from the French by Mark Siegel, illus. by Alexis Dormal. First Second, $15.99 (28p) ISBN 978-1-62672-019-0

Tucked contentedly into bed with her book and surrounded by half a dozen stuffed animals, Anna Banana may look like a mild-mannered sweetheart, but that’s not entirely the case. Just ask those stuffed animals. “Anna Banana! We’re sleepy!” protests teddy bear Grizzler. “Well, just close your eyes!” she responds. One by one, the animals try to find somewhere dark and not punctuated by Anna’s loud laughter to sleep, but she’s not letting anyone leave. “Anna likes to have ALL her stuffed animals around her,” writes French author Roques as Dormal shows Anna snagging Foxface by his tail and yanking Fuzzball away from the lamp he tries to turn off. Eventually, Anna gets tired, and that’s when her now-surly toys decide to teach her a lesson that boils down to “turnabout is fair play”—accordions, couples dancing, and footraces all factor in. It’s a fairly straightforward story about being considerate of others (even if they’re filled with stuffing), but the mischievous physical comedy that Dormal brings to his loosely scrawled cartoons keeps it from ever feeling didactic or dull. Ages 3–7. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Me and My Big Mouse

Ethan Long. Amazon/Two Lions, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4778-4728-2

A colossal mouse dwarfs his young master in this romp from Geisel Award–winner Long (Up! Tall! and High!), who taps into the same sort of comedy inherent in the relationship between Norman Bridwell’s Clifford and Emily Elizabeth. As Michael introduces his mouse, Bo, there’s a humorous disconnect between Long’s understated text and how the action plays out in his energetic cartoons. “I love watching him scamper around the house,” says Michael as Bo careens wildly through the living room, obliviously smashing into furniture and toppling objects. When the devoted pet’s relentless, invasive presence finally wears Michael down (“I can’t even go to the bathroom without him tagging along”), he leaves Bo home for once, but quickly regrets the decision. The two strike a compromise, signing a contract that allows for both time together and apart. Readers with friends or siblings who don’t quite understand the idea of personal space will empathize with Michael’s situation, while also enjoying the story’s broad slapstick humor and emotional peaks and valleys. Ages 3–5. Agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary Management. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Jake at Gymnastics

Rachel Isadora. Penguin/Paulsen, $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-16048-6

In this companion to Bea at Ballet, an equally angelic and ethnically diverse group of preschoolers attend gymnastics class. Their teacher, Dave, sets a playful tone (“Let’s be frogs and hop today”), and the boys and girls leap to the task, registering their enthusiasm in boldly colored speech balloons (“Ribbit”). Isadora’s spare pencil-and-ink pictures pop from the white backdrop thanks to the kids’ brightly colored clothing, created with collaged bits of oil painting. Isadora takes full advantage of the sport’s high energy as the young athletes crawl, swing, bounce, tumble, and jump. An early spread shows the children demonstrating various stretching exercises (side split, back bend, etc.), after which they try out different activities, including hanging from a parallel bar and bouncing on a trampoline. The story realistically spotlights achievements as well as slip-ups: a girl successfully balances on the low beam (“I’m doing it!”), while a boy topples during a somersault (“Oops!”). But it’s the kids’ sense of accomplishment and glee that readers will take away from Isadora’s slice-of-life story. Ages 3–5. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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I Got the Rhythm

Connie Schofield-Morrison, illus. by Frank Morrison. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-61963-178-6

These husband-wife collaborators present a book that reflects the joy and delight of an African-American girl who’s energized by the sounds, sights, and smells around her. Accompanied by her mother and eventually joined by friends, she bops through a city park—puffy pigtails bouncing and a wide grin on her face—as she uses her whole body to respond to and interpret the rhythm she detects around her. The driving beat of debut author Schofield-Morrison’s narrative is likely to have readers bouncing and tapping right along with her: “I shook a rhythm with my hips. SHAKE SHAKE. I felt the rhythm with my knees. KNOCK KNOCK.” Morrison’s (Stars in the Shadows) full-bleed oil paintings make the most of the story’s more boisterous moments. His lithe caricatures showcase rubbery limbs, chipmunk cheeks, and arching bodies as the girl breakdances in front of an admiring crowd (“I popped and locked./ I hipped and hopped”) and a spontaneous line dance erupts amid a diverse group of children. An upbeat celebration of the senses, self-expression, and camaraderie. Ages 2–6. Agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Just One More

Jennifer Hansen Rolli. Viking, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-670-01563-4

Ruby clearly did not get the memo from the Oracle at Delphi regarding moderation over excess. To her mind, the more the better, whether it’s “just one more hair thingy” or “just one more push” on the swing. Readers will quickly sense that “one more” is never just “one more” for Ruby, and when her teetering ice-cream cone skyscraper goes “splat,” they’ll probably agree that a little self-discipline is in order. Debut author- illustrator Rolli’s buttery, pastel-hued oil paintings convey a character who’s the soul of doe-eyed adorableness, and whose sense of entitlement is just a teensy bit out of whack and easily correctable—which is why the book feels somewhat slighter than its interesting premise. There isn’t a whole lot at stake, emotionally or comically. It doesn’t help that Ruby is always shown in isolation (the only other human presence is a stiff arm that presumably belongs to her mother), leaving no real sense of how Ruby’s behavior affects others. Maybe there’s another kid who’d like a turn on the coin-operated pony ride, too. Ages 2–4. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Griffin and the Dinosaur: How Adrienne Mayor Discovered a Fascinating Link Between Myth and Science

Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor, illus. by Chris Muller. National Geographic, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-4263-1108-6

What started as a hunch—that the legend of the griffin began with people who had seen fossils of extinct animals—led self-taught scientist Mayor to trace the origins of a myth to a basis in fact. With the suspense of a detective story, the narrative details Mayor’s research process as she consults with experts, conducts fieldwork, and seeks out ancient documents, artifacts, and stories. Beyond the intriguing content of the book itself, Aronson and Mayor deliver an empowering message: that the world contains many yet-to-be-solved enigmas, and there’s more than one way to crack a (dinosaur) egg. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog

Ann Bausum. National Geographic, $17.99 (80p) ISBN 978-1-4263-1486-5

American soldier J. Robert Conroy befriended a stray dog with a stumpy tail while training to fight overseas in WWI. They bonded so closely that Conroy smuggled him to Europe, where Stubby accompanied Conroy’s regiment on the Western Front, lending both his superior olfactory senses and amiable temperament to the war effort. Archival photographs show Stubby in candid moments with Conroy during the war and after returning to the U.S., where he received commendations and public attention. Through the story of this scrappy canine soldier, Bausum supplies an appealing entry point into the study of WWI. Conroy’s granddaughter provides an introductory note, and a timeline and research notes are included. Ages 10–up. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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