Otis & Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever

Laura Joffe Numeroff, Author, Dan Andreasen, Illustrator
Laura Numeroff, illus. by Dan Andreasen, Abrams, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8109-8959-7
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This banal paean to friendship introduces two good-natured, nearly indistinguishable bears who enjoy doing everything together. Andreasen's (The Treasure Bath) digitally colored pen and ink art echoes the old-fashioned tenor of Numeroff's (the If You Give a... series) story; strong hatching for shading and texture leads the eye and gives the bears' fur a dapper, well-groomed quality. In muted tones, the illustrations show the ever-smiling Otis and Sydney playing accordion and harmonica, engaging in tug-of-war, and embracing while jumping a trampoline. Otis decides to throw Sydney a surprise birthday party and diligently makes the preparations. When no one shows up, Otis realizes he put the wrong date on the invitations, but he and Sydney have a grand time by themselves—and get to share an entire cake. Despite the date mixup, Sydney reassures his friend that this was his best birthday ever, because "I got to spend it with you." The honeyed story never strays far from its warm and fuzzy core: the emotional highs are none too lofty, and the lows, if they can be called such, resolved instantly. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)
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