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Lily and Bear

Lisa Stubbs. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4416-3

Lily loves to draw, and when her crayon-sketched bear comes off the page and into real life, she finally has a friend to share her favorite things with: playing make-believe, attending tea parties, and “sail[ing] carpet seas” as pirates. Eventually, Bear is ready for something new, and he leads Lily outdoors and shares his world with her. Stubbs shows them catching fish, eating huckleberries, “and scratch[ing] their backs on a knotty pine” until the day is done and they curl up to dream of future adventures. The charming, childlike style of Lily’s crayoned art gives way to the screenprint-meets-scratchboard look of newcomer Stubbs’s mixed-media work, giving the book a playful freshness. The cheerful palette, which looks like it could have sprung directly from Lily’s crayon pail, is well suited to this upbeat story of young friendship. The contrast between Lily and Bear’s indoor and outdoor worlds, as well as the willingness with which both friends participate in things the other loves, creates a strong sense that all good friendships require a little give and take. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jodie Hodges, United Agents. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Beautiful Hands

Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten, illus. by Kathryn Otoshi. KO Kids/Blue Dot (PGW, dist.), $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-9907993-0-6

This celebration of human capability subverts expectations with every page turn, as Otoshi (Two) and Baumgarten twist physical actions, such as planting or lifting, into more abstract ideas. “What will your beautiful hands do today?” begins the book; the question is one Baumgarten asked his children daily, before his death in 2014. Images created from handprints and fingerprints, inked in a vibrant palette of paint and set against white backgrounds, accompany reader-directed questions that are broken up over page turns, allowing each surprising conclusion to make its full impact. “Will you plant... ideas?” write the authors, as circles of handprints attached to green stems suggest both fiery dandelions and the explosive energy of an epiphany. In two spreads dedicated to the phrase “Will they lift... spirits?” a tiny bird is first seen perched on a yellow hand; a page turn reveals the bird in its full splendor as its wings stretch across the spread, slender blue and magenta fingerprints transformed into delicate feathers. It’s an inspiring reminder of all the intangible things that our bodies, hearts, and minds have the capacity to do. Ages 3–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Lenny and Lucy

Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-932-0

Peter’s new house is surrounded by dark woods, and he spends a long night worrying about what’s out there. The next morning he gets to work, making a guardian out of blankets and cushions. Peter names his lumpy guardian Lenny and seats him at the house’s wooden bridge, where he can keep the woods “on the other side where they belong.” Concerned that Lenny might be lonely, he makes him a companion, Lucy. Readers watch as Lenny and Lucy take on life in Peter’s mind, becoming the slow-moving, benevolent grandparents that he needs. (Peter’s father is perfectly nice, but preoccupied.) When a brown-skinned girl named Millie appears—she has a plaid skirt, binoculars, and a better attitude toward the woods—Lenny tips his hat and Lucy glows; it’s clear that things are looking up. Erin Stead uses faded grays for the alien forest and warm, quiet color for the story’s living souls. What stands out is the Steads’ (Bear Has a Story to Tell) ability to evoke the wordless intimacy and companionship that every child needs—and will make for themselves, if necessary. Ages 3–7. Agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illus. by James E. Ransome. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6593-7

In an emotional story that begins in the South during the height of voter suppression, a boy named Michael joins his grandfather as he prepares to vote for the first time. Yet when the time comes, a deputy rips up his grandfather’s ballot, turning them away. Years later, as an adult Michael casts his own vote, “I knew that—just like my granddaddy—I would never take it for granted.” Bandy and Stein succinctly explore a close family bond, set against historical injustice. Ransome’s emotive watercolors strongly convey the grandfather’s dignity and Michael’s quiet pride as he reaches a milestone that was kept from his forebear. Ages 6–9. Authors’ agent: Spencer Humphrey, Rocky Hill Group. (July)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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You Make Me Happy

An Swerts, illus by Jenny Bakker. Clavis (Legato, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-60537-204-4

Bakker creates dreamy, windswept backdrops for this story of a girl who confides in her grandmother about her first crush. Sofia explains that she likes the boy because he tells stories about pirates and dragons (Bakker shows the boy squaring off against a giant green dragon), defends her from teasing classmates, and makes funny faces in class. The elderly woman, in turn, tells Sofia about the boy she loved as a child—the girl’s grandfather. Readers with romantic butterflies of their own may be emboldened by the girl’s decision to announce her affection to the boy—with a message that reiterates the book’s title. Ages 5–up. (June)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Great and the Grand

Benjamin Fox, illus. by Elizabeth Robbins. Familius (familius.com), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-942672-97-5

As a mother and her son travel to see her elderly father, Fox contrasts the lives of the baby (“The New”) and his grandfather (“The Old”). Robbins’s realistic paintings highlight happy and somber moments as mother and child make their way and the grandfather awaits their arrival. In one pair of images, the child stabs at his food with a fork (“The New holds on”), while the older man visits a gravestone (“The Old is learning to let go”). Plainspoken about the reality of life’s joyful and painful moments, it’s a book most likely to find its audience among adult readers. Ages 5–9. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Because Your Grandparents Love You

Andrew Clements, illus. by R.W. Alley. Clarion, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-544-14854-3

Of the many things grandparents excel at, unfailing patience and kindness top the list as two children visit their elder relatives’ idyllic farm. Writing in second person, Clements poses theoretical scenarios about how the grandparents might react as the children’s enthusiasms get the best of them: “When you want to help feed the cow but can’t lift the hay, your grandmother could say, Hold on there—that’s way too much!” But each time, the grandparents respond with assistance and understanding. Clements’s gentle, knowing writing and Alley’s friendly characterizations readily capture the joy of making memories with grandparents. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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101 Ways to Be a Good Granny

Harriet Ziefert, illus. by Katie Kath. Blue Apple (Consortium, dist.), $14.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-60905-514-1

Lively grandmothers with a variety of skin tones, ages, and interests demonstrate 101 ways they play important roles in their grandchildren’s lives in this list-style offering. The 101 ideas referenced in the title are grouped into more than 30 sections, including “In the Garden” and “Feed Their Brains,” which offer a mix of activities (“45. Play miniature golf” “70. Walk a new neighborhood”) and more emotional means of support (a “Give Praise” section includes encouragements like “Awesome!” and “Nice hairdo!”). The grandmother-directed text should leave readers with lots of options the next time they tackle the final suggestion: “Have a sleepover!” Up to age 5. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Best Grandpa in the World!

Eleni Livanios, trans. from the German by Erica Stenfalt, illus. by Susanne Lutje. NorthSouth (IPS, dist.), $7.95 (16p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4237-3

“My grandpa wears a blindfold/ so that he can’t see./ I hop around like crazy/ so he won’t catch me,” explains a kangaroo joey, one of six animals who praise their grandfathers in this tender board book. Other animals include beavers building a creek-side den of logs and branches, and a badger who makes a snowman with his grandfather. The last image introduces a human child and grandfather who sit together on a moonlit dock. Cheery rhymes and cozy illustrations combine in a warm celebration of grandfatherly attention across the animal kingdom. Available simultaneously: The Best Grandma in the World. Up to age 3. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Oddly Normal

Otis Frampton. Image, $9.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-63215-226-8

Half witch and half human, 10-year-old Oddly Normal is used to being outcast at school—her green hair and pointy ears immediately mark her as different, and her family's home, a haunted house lookalike among cookie-cutter suburban colonials, sticks out just as much. Frustrated that her parents are so happy while she is so isolated, Oddly makes a birthday wish for them to disappear—and they do (along with the house). Her auntie promptly shows up and brings Oddly to her mother's homeland of Fignation, where zombies rub shoulders with robots, giant insects serve as public transportation, and Oddly feels as lonely as ever. Over five chapters (originally published as separate comics), Frampton addresses relatable topics like feeling like an outsider and trying to make friends in an unfamiliar, unfriendly setting. Vivid cartooning, in the vein of '90s cartoons like Gargoyles or Recess, meshes well with the goofy goings-on in the story (at one point, a smiling sun yanks a curtain across the sky to turn night into day). Little is resolved in this first installment, with the fate of Oddly's parents left to future books. Ages 9-up. (July)

Reviewed on 06/26/2015 | Details & Permalink

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