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Olive and the Embarrassing Gift

Tor Freeman. Candlewick/Templar, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7406-9

Olive the cat continues to comically navigate the perils of friendship in her third book, following Olive and the Big Secret and Olive and the Bad Mood. This time, Olive’s friend Joe the turtle presents her with a knit cap festooned with hearts that reads “best friends” (Joe has a matching hat, adding to Olive’s mortification). “I’m not sure it’s quite hat weather today,” Olive ventures, after buddy Ziggy snorts at the sight of them. “Well, it’s not really that sort of hat,” Joe reassures her. “It’s more of an everyday hat!” After Joe catches Olive trashing the gift, she casts her dignity aside to win back her friend. Freeman tackles a highly relatable quandary—who among us has not known the horror of unwanted knitwear?—while using sly humor and knowing dialogue to keep the story emotionally true yet free of pedagogy. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Hank Has a Dream

Rebecca Dudley. Peter Pauper (www.peterpauper.com), $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4413-1572-4

“Last night I dreamed I flew!” announces Hank, the bear/monkeylike critter from Hank Finds an Egg, before proceeding to regale his hummingbird friend with a step-by-step recounting of his dream. Dudley again stages the action in carefully crafted and photographed dioramas, this time creating lovely parallels between the “real” and dream action of the story. On the left side of each spread, Hank races through the forest, sits on a rope bridge, and swings from a tree. Each action mirrors events from his dream, which are shown in scenes that appear at right, with Hank floating over rivers and through the clouds in a delicate, translucent airship. Readers will find Hank’s subconscious travels every bit as enticing as his forest wanderings. Ages 3–8. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates.(Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Is There a Dog in This Book?

Viviane Schwarz. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6991-1

Cat trio Tiny, Moonpie, and André are back, following their antics in There Are Cats in This Book and There Are No Cats in This Book, certain that they sense the presence of a dog. Readers will be smiling at the cats’ inane chatter from the first pages. “Oh, no! We don’t want to meet a dog!” howls André. “What is a dog?” Tiny asks. “Can you move this sofa?” asks Moonpie, drawing attention to the first of many laugh-out-loud lift-flaps. This one reveals a skinny purple hound who looks, if possible, even more vacant than the cats. The cats hide in a piano, closet, and suitcase, before finally recognizing the dog as a kindred spirit. The flaps will probably require tape repairs, as this one will be asked for again and again. Ages 3–7. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Flora and the Penguin

Molly Idle. Chronicle, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4521-2891-7

Idle reprises the structure and format of her Caldecott Honor–winning Flora and the Flamingo in this wordless wintry companion, which is every bit as graceful a performance for both Flora and her creator. A thick sheet of ice serves as the canvas for Flora’s skating performance with a penguin that has climbed up onto the ice; a cutaway view of the pale blue-violet water below shows a school of fish doing a dance of their own. Small glued-in flaps help create a sense of movement, and also explore the brief rift that forms between Flora and the penguin after the bird dives back below the ice in pursuit of a fish. Once again, Idle’s elegantly drafted scenes couldn’t be more polished, and the foldout sequence that brings this dance to a close feels like a real triumph. Ages 3–5. Agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Time for a Bath

Phillis Gershator, illus. by David Walker. Sterling, $9.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-4549-1032-9

The two bunnies from Time for a Hug return in a bath-themed sequel, which aims to establish a cause-and-effect relationship in readers’ minds: playing and mess-making are great, but getting cleaned up afterward is part of the deal. The smaller tan bunny takes several baths in the story, the first of which occurs after a pancake breakfast that leaves the kitchen in disarray (“Spills and spatters, goop and grit./ Fill the tub—What time is it?”). Various seasonal escapades—a summer trip to the beach, outdoor play in spring and autumn, and a messy day of painting indoors in winter—also result in baths, all of which the bunny submits to happily. Walker’s soft paintings underscore this mood of positivity, highlighting the small bunny’s independence (but also its loving relationship with its parent) in every scene. Ages 3–5. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Alone Together

Suzanne Bloom. Boyds Mills, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62091-736-7

In Bloom’s sixth Goose and Bear title, following 2013’s Fox Forgets, Bear is trying to have some time to himself to sit quietly, but buddy Fox doesn’t quite have a handle on the concept. “I’m going to be alone with Bear,” Fox announces to Goose, proceeding to hum, twirl, and make whooshing noises until the frustrated Bear (gently) lets Fox know that he’s looking for less noise (Fox consents and promptly falls asleep on top of Bear). Bloom sets the action against a placid blue backdrop, and there’s plenty of subdued comedy in her fuzzy pastel portraits of Fox, Bear, and Goose, who eventually wanders over to be “alone together” with the other two. It’s a pleasant reminder that friendship takes all kinds—though it’s really Bear’s patience that makes it work in this case. Ages 2–6. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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All Aboard!

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illus by Mike Lowery. Knopf, $12.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-385-75420-0

Dotlich and Lowery sang the praises of an oft-overlooked piece of machinery in What Can a Crane Pick Up? There’s significantly more competition out there for this companion title about train travel, but Dotlich’s buoyant rhymes and Lowery’s loose cartooning and manically drawn text supply plenty of personality. “Trains whistle through prairies,/ a long, steel sweep./ Through thunder and wind,/ they have schedules to keep,” reads one spread, as Lowery’s lightly anthropomorphized train whistles to itself under a dark sky—smiling down at the train is a single nonthreatening storm cloud, a bolt of yellow lighting dangling like a dog’s tail. It’s a lighthearted ode to the landscape trains traverse, the cargo they carry, and the joy of seeing the sights while riding the rails. Ages 2–5. Agent: Deborah Warren, East West Literary Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/15/2014 | Details & Permalink

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