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All Ears, All Eyes

Richard Jackson, illus. by Katherine Tillotson. Athenuem/Dlouhy, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-1571-2

Using words that glint and sparkle, Jackson (In Plain Sight) captures human perceptions of the forest at twilight. Lyrical (“as light falls and night rises”) and warm (“Nature’s ark glows”), Jackson’s fragmentary lines suggest a dialogue between two voices—an adult and a child?—and their observations create a darkness that is inviting, mysterious, and full of life, without being threatening. “What scoots between roots?” asks one voice as a porcupine scuttles past a towering tree. Spots of light suggest moonlight amid the dark greens, blues, mauves, and lavenders of Tillotson’s (Shoe Dog) artwork, making the environment easier to discern and the animals identifiable—an owl on a branch, a fox darting between tree trunks, a mouse on a limb. In other scenes, Tillotson concentrates on the way that the deepening twilight allows for only ghostly glimpses of the nearby creatures, like the silhouette of a cat that walks right in front of the reader (“Where? There! Shhh”). There are no fireworks, no high-flown language—just an immediate and vivid connection to the living world. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Argyle Fox

Marie Letourneau. Tanglewood (IPS, dist.), $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-939100-09-2

A fox named Argyle (who wears an argyle-patterned scarf knit by his mother) attempts to play outdoors on a windy day in this mild story from Letourneau (The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frères). Despite his mother’s admonition that playing cards will blow away, Argyle builds a card tower that topples almost immediately. The young fox ignores similar warnings from his animal pals, who try to discourage subsequent ill-fated games—including role-playing as a spider, pirate, and knight. (Readers may note that Argyle’s choices of imaginative activities are less an issue than his flimsy accessories—a paper pirate hat, a cardboard castle, etc.) Letourneau captures Argyle’s frustrations in fresh, cheery illustrations punctuated with her hero’s frustrated outbursts (“Stupid wind!”) and a large, hand- lettered “Woosh” that accompanies each destructive gust. Though short on surprises, Letourneau’s tale offers a gentle reminder of the rewards of perseverance, resourcefulness, and creativity: with only a bit of encouragement from his mother, Argyle hits on a natural windy day activity, repurposing his supplies to create kites for himself and his friends. Ages 4–7. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Time Now to Dream

Timothy Knapman, illus. by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9078-6

Playing in their yard on the edge of a forest, Alice and her younger brother, Jack, hear a strange noise wafting from the woods: “Ocka by hay beees unna da reeees.” Jack is certain that it’s the Wicked Wolf, but Alice insists they explore (mindful of her big-sister duties, she holds Jack’s hand and promises him several times that “everything is going to be all right”). Oxenbury’s (Captain Jack and the Pirates) watercolors, rendered in pale yellows and greens, hark back to similar journeys in classic fairy tales. The eerie noises continue—Knapman (Dinosaurs Don’t Have Bedtimes) devises more weird but oddly familiar words—the forest darkens, the Wicked Wolf looms larger in Jack’s imagination, and Alice panics. Finally, their nemesis is revealed, in Jack’s words, as a “mommy” wolf “singing her babies to sleep.” Turning the page, readers see a huge wolf lovingly crooning to her trio of adoring, drowsy pups, framed by soft green leaves. It’s impossible not to linger on this image and savor its poignancy. The delicious escalation of suspense is replaced with a quiet sense of wonder, making this story a winner. Ages 3–7. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics

Margarita Engle, illus. by Rafael López. Holt, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9876-1

Eighteen Hispanic individuals from diverse professional and personal backgrounds are honored in Engle’s plainspoken free-verse poems, written from each person’s perspective. “I struggled to become a teacher/ and a poet, so I could use words/ to fight for equal rights for women,” explains Puerto Rican activist Julia de Burgos, while George Meléndez Wright, the first chief of the National Park Service’s wildlife division, speaks to his environmental passions: “Let us save rare species/ before it is too late!” López (who illustrated Engle’s Dream Drum Girl) creates bold, dramatic portraits of the subjects, which include José Martí, Pura Belpré, Tito Puente, and César Chávez. Capsule biographies are a welcome supplement to the poems, which don’t always fully contextualize the figures on their own. A Spanish-language edition is available simultaneously. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Michelle Humphrey, Martha Kaplan Agency. Illustrator’s agency: Full Circle Literary. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies

J. Patrick Lewis, illus. by Johanna Wright. WordSong, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59078-921-6

Former Children’s Poet Laureate Lewis gathers 13 poems, then pairs them with parodies that take the original works in unexpected directions, accompanied by Wright’s smudgy, naïf artwork. Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” becomes “Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening” (“Whose mold this is I think I know,” it begins); Sandburg’s “Fog” inspires Lewis to write about hail; and an excerpt from Dickinson’s “ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” takes a somber turn: “Grief is the thing with tissues.” Readers who take Lewis’s introductory suggestion to write their own parodies may learn how writing a good one requires a solid awareness of the source material, something Lewis clearly demonstrates with his clever, funny, and visceral responses. Ages 5–10. Illustrator’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Thunder Underground

Jane Yolen, illus. by Josée Masse. WordSong, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59078-936-0

Home to organisms, minerals, and buried treasure, the subterranean world is the subject of Yolen’s 21 poems, written in a variety of rhyming and nonrhyming forms. Masse’s crisp, gently textured mixed-media illustrations show a black girl and white boy imaginatively exploring what lurks beneath their feet, starting in the basement: “cables, pipes,/ the basic foundation,/ a storage,/ a story,/ the oldest page.” In subsequent poems, Yolen pays tributes to the natural (“Oh, to be an ant,/ neat, quiet, indifferent/ to anything but constant work”) and the man-made (“I like the sound the subway makes/ deep in its underground den”), as well as musing on lost cities, pirate treasure, and “magma pools/ Becoming rock/ When magma cools.” Blending creativity with scientific fact, Yolen’s poems appeal to readers’ imaginations and intellects alike. Ages 5–10. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agent: Lori Nowicki, Painted Words. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Feel the Beat: Dance Poems That Zing from Salsa to Swing

Marilyn Singer, illus. by Kristi Valiant. Dial, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4021-1

Singer (Miss Muffet, or What Came After) taps into the rhythms of the cha-cha, conga, waltz, and other dances in more than a dozen upbeat poems. “No fumbling, no bumbling,/ my pops is tops at tumbling./ He’s elastic, so fantastic./ Papa’s so gymnastic!” gushes a boy about his breakdancing father. In kinetic scenes, Valiant (the Pretty Minnie books) captures lithe tangoers on a cobblestone street, wedding guests dancing the bhangra, and enthusiastic patrons swinging outside a library: “Today we read about finance,/ looked up the capital of France./ We found a book about a pug./ But we’re here to jitterbug.” It’s a celebration of the variety and global diversity of dance, and of how it can unite communities. Singer reads the poems, with musical accompaniment, on an included CD. Ages 5–8. Illustrator’s agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market

Michelle Schaub, illus. by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58089-547-7

In her first picture book, poet Schaub celebrates farmers’ markets in 18 buoyant, mostly rhymed poems; readers can follow two children and their respective dogs through one such market in Huntington’s (Grandma Drove the Lobsterboat) airy watercolors. The poems sing the praises of the edibles on sale at the market, as well its sights and entertainment. “Get your roasted sweet corn here!/ Can’t be beat this time of year!” reads “Sally’s Sweet Corn,” while “Delightful Bites” highlights the market’s delicious smells: “Alluring aromas float over tent-tops—a whiff of vanilla, a whisper of spice.” Occasional moments of excitement (one of the dogs makes a beeline for a table of free fruit samples) capture the bustling energy of an outdoor market. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Karen Grencik, Red Fox Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Erzsi Deàk, Hen & Ink Literary Studio. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Otter Loves Easter!

Sam Garton. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $9.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-236667-2

The star of several picture books and early readers, Garton’s willful Otter learns an important Easter truth in this holiday outing: “Sharing is very hard. Because eating chocolate is very easy.” After scarfing down all of her Easter treats, eater’s remorse sets in, and Otter assumes the guise of the Easter Otter to make amends to the playroom friends she stiffed, candy-wise. Garton’s dry humor and carefully detailed scenes offer delights throughout, from the bunny-shaped pancake breakfast—prepared by the ever-patient Otter Keeper—that the chocolate-smeared Otter can’t stomach, to the egg hunt Otter organizes for her friends, a lush backyard garden scene that’s basically a gift to readers. Ages 4–8. Agent: Brooks Sherman, Bent Agency. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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We’re Going on an Egg Hunt

Laura Hughes. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (24p) ISBN 978-1-68119-314-4

Hughes (River Rose and the Magical Lullaby) offers an entertaining though somewhat odd Easter adventure that lets readers join four scruffy brown rabbits on an egg hunt. Lifting flaps uncovers Easter eggs and assorted animals (“Hello, ducklings!”), and Hughes’s repeating language creates a singsong atmosphere as the rabbits encounter lambs, ducks, and other animals. “Oh, no—chicks!/ Can’t go over them./ Can’t go under them./ Can’t go around them./ Got to go through them,” writes Hughes, though it’s unclear why going over or around the tiny fuzzballs isn’t an option. A run-in with a menacing wolf adds a dash of danger: the rabbits escape home just fine, though it would seem that the lambs, ducks, and chicks outside are still fair game for the predator. Ages 3–6. Agent: Arabella Stein, Bright Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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