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The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

Susan Wood, illus. by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58536-994-2

Striking a down-home tone, Wood (Esquivel!) unspools a real-life story of animal conservation. In 1948 Idaho, beavers presented a dilemma to a growing resort community: “The people were muscling in on the beavers’ habitat. And the beavers were trashing the people’s habitat. A real turf war.” Elmo Heter, an employee with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, relocated the beavers to a pristine wilderness area by gently dropping them in wooden boxes from parachutes. Van Frankenhuyzen (The Legend of the Beaver’s Tail) captures the historical setting in details like a woodie station wagon and copies of Life on Heter’s desk, while his lush, light-infused paintings reveal the region’s natural beauty. Wood’s story underscores the value in bringing innovative thinking to a problem—even a beaver invasion. Ages 6–9. Author’s agent: Caryn Wiseman, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Apex Predators: The World’s Deadliest Hunters, Past and Present

Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-67160-7

There have always been top-of-the-food-chain predators—“creatures too tough, too big, or too well-armed to be hunted by other animals”—and Jenkins’s commanding collages bring these “apex predators” to vivid life. Some two dozen creatures are examined in all, a mix of the contemporary (Komodo dragon, electric eel) and extinct, such as the 10-foot-tall “terror bird,” a flightless creature native to South American that could weigh “as much as a present-day lion or tiger.” Pithy headlines introduce each animal (a marsupial saber-tooth earns the headline “Fangs—and a pouch”), followed by short descriptive passages: “It was probably an ambush hunter, leaping on a deer or other grazing animal and stabbing it to death with its curved canine teeth.” The intricacy of Jenkins’s distinctive artwork will capture readers’ imaginations, as will the predator face-offs he stages between pairs of predators. Great white shark vs. Dunkleosteus, anyone? Ages 6–9. (June)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Baby Dolphin’s First Swim

American Museum of Natural History. Sterling, $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4549-2236-0

A dolphin calf explores the ocean in one of two books launching the First Discoveries series, created in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Brief, declarative sentences highlight details about dolphins (“The baby dolphin is hungry. His tongue forms a straw shape so he can drink milk from his mother without drinking any salt water”). Accompanying photographs show the mother and calf swimming, rising to the surface, catching fish, leaping, and accompanying a pod; clear descriptions accompany each image. Neil Duncan, a biologist with the museum, is featured in a “Meet the Expert” sidebar, though his connection to the book isn’t explicitly defined. It’s a relatable story of mother-baby tenderness, bolstered by engaging facts about dolphin life. Available simultaneously: Wolf Pups Join the Pack. Ages 4–up. (June)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Can an Aardvark Bark?

Melissa Stewart, illus. by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5852-8

Stewart (Feathers: Not Just for Flying) highlights the sounds that animals make in this inviting primer, which is augmented by Jenkins’s torn-paper portraits. Stewart leads with internally rhyming questions about particular animals (“Can a wild boar roar? No, but it can squeal”), and the subsequent pages introduce additional animals that make similar sounds; a European hedgehog and European spotted dolphins are among other creatures that squeal. Brief captions elaborate on the animals’ methods of communication: “A male koala really makes a racket at mating time. His deep, growling bellow helps females find him.” Jenkins (Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep) renders each animal with characteristic attention to detail and subtle texture, resulting in a handsome and dynamic exploration of animal behavior. Ages 2–8. (June)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

Ben Clanton. Tundra, $12.99 (64p) ISBN 978-1-101-91829-6

Narwhal and Jelly returns in a second collection of short comics, and, much like pop culture at large, they are superhero obsessed. Having taken up the mantle of Super Narwhal, Clanton’s hero helps a star assume its place in the sky (a cannon is involved, as are wishes), among other adventures, including a waffle-themed comic created by the two friends. But although Super Narwhal has no trouble coming up with a mustachioed secret identity (Clark Parker Wayne, “a wealthy and eccentric trillionaire”), locating his superpower requires more work. The laughs are mighty, but even mightier is Narwhal’s anything-is-possible attitude and deep reserves of heart. Ages 6–9. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt Zacker Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Case of the Stinky Stench

Josh Funk, illus. by Brendan Kearney. Sterling, $15.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4549-1960-5

With a “horrible stench” assailing the fridge, the stars of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast attempt to locate its source, assisting an eager sleuth, Inspector Croissant. Funk crafts his rhymes with care, and readers will giggle their way through this refrigerated fantasyland: “They started their search crossing Salsa Ravine,/ And lumbered through smog around Mount Everbean.” Kearney’s candy-colored cartoons are attuned to the book’s brand of culinary comedy, conjuring marshmallow vistas, a sludgy lake of chowder, and even a literal red herring on the way to a happy ending that doesn’t even require baking soda to solve. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Kathleen Rushall, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Hannah Whitty, Plum Pudding Illustration. (May)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Bulldozer Helps Out

Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-5894-8

Fleming and Rohmann subvert expectations several times in this handsomely illustrated follow-up to Bulldozer’s Big Day. Initially, it looks like a familiar too-small-to-help construction story. Then, after Bulldozer is asked to flatten out a section of terrain, it seems like he has fallen asleep on the job. The reality—that he’s protecting a mother cat and her kittens—comes as a tender surprise, which underscores the idea that talents come in all shapes and sizes. Many parents, meanwhile, will likely side with Dump Truck, who quips, “Taking care of babies? Now that’s a rough, tough job.” Ages 4–7. Agent: Ethan Ellenberg, Ethan Ellenberg Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover

Audrey Penn, illus. by Barbara L. Gibson. Tanglewood (PGW, dist.), $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-939100-11-5

Chester Raccoon spends an eventful “overday” with some of his forest friends, but when it comes time to sleep, the “Kissing Hand” tradition he shares with his mother isn’t quite enough to soothe him. The story itself is somewhat drawn out (there are three separate gags relating to Sassafras Skunk’s tendency to “stinky puff” at inopportune times), and Gibson’s artwork can feel posed and static. Chester ultimately leaves the sleepover early and is welcomed home by his mother, a resolution that should reassure timid readers who aren’t always as brave or independent as they would like to be. Ages 3–7. (May)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Ladybug Girl’s Day Out with Grandpa

David Soman and Jacky Davis. Dial, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4032-7

A trip to the natural history museum—with its dizzying array of things to see, do, and learn about—proves to be an opportunity for Lulu to gain a newfound appreciation for mindfulness in this warm addition to Soman and Davis’s long-running series. Dressed in her ever-present ladybug outfit, Lulu dashes from dinosaurs to gemstones to marine mammals at top speed, and just when she starts to get overwhelmed by how much there is to learn, Grandpa reminds her that “If you take your time and are still for a moment, you’ll learn more.” Lulu’s eagerness and Grandpa’s affection for his granddaughter are powerfully felt in each scene. Ages 3–5. (May)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel

Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri. Dial, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-525-42888-6

When the world runs out of tacos, there’s only one thing to do: go back in time, “save a handful of tacos, plant them in the ground, and grow taco trees so we never run out of tacos again.” Fans of Dragons Love Tacos won’t be surprised that this expedition doesn’t go terribly smoothly: there are several spicy-salsa-triggered fire-breathing incidents, as well as pit stops in timelines where dragons love diapers and giant tacos love dragons. Are the time jumps always easy to track? Not really, but this sequel’s dialed-up energy and absurdity remain a tasty—and very funny—combination. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 04/28/2017 | Details & Permalink

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