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Jamal’s Journey

Michael Foreman. Andersen Press USA (Lerner, dist.), $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5124-3949-6

In a lightly suspenseful story, Foreman (The Tortoise and the Soldier) follows a Bedouin caravan across the desert, as a young camel named Jamal struggles to keep up. When a sandstorm strikes, Jamal is separated from his mama and baba, as well as the human and falcon members of the caravan. After a brief encounter with some desert animals, including a jerboa and hare, Jamal spies a falcon from the convoy, which swoops in to guide him back to the group. Foreman’s pencil-and-watercolor images readily convey the desert’s vastness through sweeping expanses of golden sand and pale skies that deepen to a rich blue as night falls; the imposing skyline of Dubai looms in the distance, and the caravan eventually reaches a bustling and vivid marketplace on the city’s outskirts. “Jamal had never been in a city before,” writes Foreman. “It is so busy, so noisy—the market, the boats, the sea. So exciting!” Children should find it easy to identify with Jamal’s frustrations at his limitations, fears upon getting lost, and relief and excited curiosity once his journey is back on track. Ages 4–9. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Cinnamon

Neil Gaiman, illus. by Divya Srinivasan. Harper, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-239961-8

Cinnamon, the heroine of this Just So–style story, lives in a magnificent palace, wears an orange sari, and has pearls for eyes, “which gave her great beauty, but meant she was blind.” Cinnamon doesn’t talk, and her parents, the Rajah and Rani, offer gifts to those who can get her to speak. All fail until a tiger appears: “He was huge and fierce, a nightmare in black and orange, and he moved like a god through the world, which is how tigers move.” Though the family is skeptical, he begins to teach Cinnamon: “The tiger put Cinnamon’s hand into his. ‘Pain,’ said the tiger, and he extended one needle-sharp claw into Cinnamon’s hand.” The heat of Gaiman’s prose, which switches from fairy tale romance to farce and back again, stands in contrast to Srinivasan’s (Little Owl’s Night) cool spreads, which concentrate on the beauty of the Indian setting, her flat, graphic shapes ornamented with lacy filigree. This isn’t a comforting tale, but its effect is real: Gaiman puts a claw right into the reader’s hand. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Merrilee Heifetz, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!

Candace Fleming, illus. by Lori Nichols. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-86648-7

Night has fallen on the farm and, as in many human households, none of the animals wants to sleep in its own bed. Pig’s plan to get shut-eye in his sty is thwarted when he discovers Cow sleeping there. Cow is admonished, but after she trudges to her stall, her derriere lands on Hen. And so it goes. The only animal who doesn’t have to settle for her assigned bed is Cat, who gets a plum spot indoors, snuggled up with her young caretaker. Nichols’s (Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree) digitally colored ink cartoons humorously capture that distinctly after-hours sense of annoyance—there are a lot of furrowed brows and angrily pointed hooves. Fleming (Giant Squid) punctuates her text with plenty of crowd-pleasing refrains, remarks, and repetition: along with the title, each animal intruder emits a species-specific cry upon discovery and a distinctive grumble (“Oh, baaah-ther!” whines Sheep). No rationale is given for this jumbling game of musical beds, and readers won’t care one bit. Ages 3–7. Author’s agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media. (May)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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On Duck Pond

Jane Yolen, illus. by Bob Marstall. Cornell Lab, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-943645-22-0

The team behind On Bird Hill returns with an intimate reflection on a small Massachusetts pond, where a placid scene can change at a moment’s notice. While On Bird Hill had a certain dreamlike quality, particularly in Marstall’s slightly surreal artwork, this story feels grounded in careful, quiet observation. Yolen writes in first-person rhymes (the narrator is eventually revealed to be a boy walking his dog), bearing contemplative witness to the disruptions caused by a “quack of ducks” that descends on the pond: “A frog leaped off his lily pad./ Quite surprised and very mad./ A heron flew back to her nest./ Tadpole hid—which they do best.” A sunlit glow seems to infuse Marstall’s landscapes, and he’s carefully attentive to the physical details of the birds, frogs, and other creatures the boy notices. Informative endnotes invite readers to locate eight animals hidden in the preceding pages, offer additional information about a host of birds and other creatures, and encourage children to learn more about ponds and birds. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agent: Abigail Samoun, Red Fox Literary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Elephants of Art: An Educational Art Story

Jo O’Mara. Archway, $14.95 paper (44p) ISBN 978-1-4808-2834-6

Toulouse, a gray mouse in a bowler hat, is confused by his art teacher’s reference to the “elements of art” and assumes that she meant the “elephants of art.” Setting out to find these important pachyderms, Toulouse meets three personable elephants, who are eager to share their knowledge: Linus, the elephant of line; Starla, the elephant of shape; and Rainbow, the elephant of color. Each elephant demonstrates the role played by his or her element and how the concepts work together to create art. “We came to show you how to put these pieces, or elements, together to make something beautiful,” explains Linus. O’Mara incorporates bright colors and eye-catching patterns into her collage-style graphics, filling the pages with lines, colors, and shapes that visually underscore what Toulouse is learning. Although some readers might be slightly confused by the literal manifestation of Toulouse’s misunderstanding, the book’s wordplay (including the connections between the elephants’ names and the concepts they represent) should help them remember the elements discussed. O’Mara, an art educator, packs a fair amount of information in this outing, the first in a planned series. Ages 2–up. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Old MacDonald’s Things That Go

Jane Clarke, illus. by Migy Blanco. Nosy Crow, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9326-8

Clarke (Who Woke the Baby?) gives Old MacDonald an insatiable need for speed in this snappy vehicular riff on a classic nursery song. Instead of animal noises and choruses of “E-I-E-I-O,” she deploys an array of dings, vrooms, and zooms as the farmer takes to the roads, rivers, and sky: “And on that farm he had a plane./ He loved things that go!” Blanco’s (Cinderella’s Stepsister and the Big Bad Wolf) cheerful digital illustrations lend a retro mid-20th-century look to the pages, highlighting 1950s-era trucks, convertibles, boats, and farm equipment. A cast of farm animals keeps the story moving, riding along with Old MacDonald in their own vehicles or cheering him on from the sidelines as the farmer pilots a tractor (“with a chug-chug here”), boat (“with a splash-splash there”), train (“everywhere a choo-choo”), and other noisy contraptions. Clarke’s adapted stanzas are sure to draw giggles in several places (“And on that farm/ he had a combine harvester”), and Blanco’s detail-crammed scenes will have readers poring over the pages. Ages 2–5. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Ivy

Katherine Coville, illus. by Celia Kaspar. Knopf, $16.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-553-53975-2

In a story infused with gentle magic, Ivy and her grandmother Meg, a healer, live in a cluttered cottage in the otherwise pristine village of Broomsweep. Having learned of Meg’s abilities, sick and injured woodland animals frequently arrive at the cottage seeking help, as do occasional magical creatures—a three-legged griffin and a dragon with the sniffles, most recently. When the queen announces a contest to select the best town in the kingdom, the mayor’s cantankerous wife and other neighbors fear that Ivy and Meg will mar the town’s image, but when trolls invade, the animals protect the community. Coville creates a cozy fairy-tale-like atmosphere in a story that celebrates nonconformity and kindness. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 7–10. Author’s agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Captain Pug

Laura James, illus. by Églantine Ceulemans. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68119-380-9

A dog with a fear of the water reluctantly embarks on an aquatic misadventure. Pug lives in a posh townhouse with his child guardian, the equally pampered Lady Miranda, where they gorge themselves on jam tarts and are attended to by footmen. A trip to the lake results in a series of unexpected diversions for Pug (whom Lady Miranda has dressed in a sea captain’s outfit), as he gets separated from his young mistress, helps a team of rowers win a race, and sets sail with another girl. Newcomer James creates a quirky, mixed-up setting (the tale is set in the present day, yet Lady Miranda’s footmen wear powdered wigs and cart her around in a sedan chair), and Ceulemans’s airy pen-and-ink drawings, accented with peach and bright blue, draw out the story’s physical comedy, particularly during a climactic helicopter rescue at the local swimming pool. Ages 6–9. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Cave of Aaaaah! Doom!

Jaden Kent, illus. by Iryna Bodnaruk. Little Bee, $16.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-4998-0393-8

This goofy launch to the Ella and Owen series follows twin dragons as they embark on a quest to find a cure for the stubborn cold that is causing Owen to sneeze fire. During their swift-moving adventure, Ella and Owen have run-ins with ogres, sprites, a monster waffle, and an “evil vegetable wizard” with broccoli for a head. Kent, a pseudonym, keeps the silliness front and center and packs in lots of banter between the siblings: “You wanted adventure and excitement, right?” says Ella, after the two get trapped in the ogre’s cage. “I didn’t want any of those things!” wails the comparatively timid Owen. Though Owen’s sneezing troubles are eventually resolved, the story ends midkerfuffle, to be picked up in the next installment, Attack of the Stinky Fish Monster, available simultaneously. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 6–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dragons and Marshmallows

Asia Citro, illus. by Marion Lindsay. Innovation (IPS, dist.), $16.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-943147-08-3

In this whimsical first book in the Zoey and Sassafras series, Zoey—a resourceful budding scientist with brown skin, springy curls, and a cat sidekick—learns that her mother has been secretly rehabilitating magical animals in their backyard. Naturally, Zoey wants to help, but when a sick baby dragon appears while her mother is away, she must use the tools available to her to help the dragon survive. Citro plays Zoey’s anxieties against her can-do attitude, demonstrating how research, past experience, and the scientific method can come in handy (investigating what dragons like to eat, Zoey learns that they enjoy marshmallows but fish is a better choice). Dense blocks of text don’t make for a terribly inviting reading experience, but Lindsay’s cheery spot illustrations help, and Citro gracefully balances her story’s scientific and fantasy elements. Simultaneously available: Monsters and Mold and Merhorses and Bubbles. Ages 5–9. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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