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Boo! Haiku

Deanna Caswell, illus. by Bob Shea. Abrams Appleseed, $12.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2118-2

Caswell and Shea follow their recent Guess Who, Haiku with another poetry-based guessing game, using haiku to hint at the identities of 10 Halloween standbys. There are some especially lovely haikus in the mix, and they often strike a pleasing balance between evocative language and casual phrasings: a pumpkin is “an orange porch pal/ scooped for pie and roasted seeds/ a candlelit grin,” while a ghost is “footsteps without feet/ woo-ooo-ing in the basement/ heavy chains floating.” Playing inky black against bold shades of olive, mustard, and violet, Shea opts for treats over tricks, creating smiley and wholly unthreatening portraits of witches, spiders, scarecrows, owls, and more. A closing note includes information about the haiku form, including the “element of play” common to many of them and the concept of syllables. Ages 3–5. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating

Laura Gehl, illus. by Joyce Wan. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-30122-4

What’s the only thing more adorable than a Joyce Wan character? A Joyce Wan character in a Halloween costume. In this sequel to Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching, Egg might have lost his shell, but he hasn’t lost his negative attitude. His sibling, Peep, urges him to come trick-or-treating with her, but thoughts of vampires, mummies, and monsters are giving him pause (never mind that the “vampires” in question are heart-stoppingly cute costumed ducklings swimming in a pond). As in the previous book, when Peep stops trying to persuade Egg to join in the Halloween fun and leaves him to his own devices, he has a change of heart. It’s a familiar story of opening oneself up to new experiences, but Gehl’s lighthearted dialogue and Wan’s chunky, emotive graphics keep it feeling fresh. Ages 2–6. Author’s agent: Erzsi Deàk, Hen & Ink Literary Studio. Illustrator’s agent: Teresa Kietlinski, Prospect Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Love Monster and the Scary Something

Rachel Bright. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-34691-1

Fears of lurking monsters can be a source of nighttime anxiety for some kids, so it’s slightly ironic that Bright’s adorably big-eyed monster, returning in his fourth picture book, is himself being kept awake by strange noises. Bright generates some real suspense during Love Monster’s dark night of the soul (“There was definitely something out there! And that something... had definitely gotten in!”), and as her hero’s imagination goes into overdrive, readers see a menacing purple fluffball with “terrible, twisterly toenails” tromping up the stairs. Reality proves to be much cuddlier: the intruder, “the tiniest, fluffiest bunny in Cutesville,” was simply scared of the dark, too. The storytelling can occasionally get a bit convoluted (“Somehow, hiding from the something outside... got harder than finding something brave inside”), but nervous readers will be reassured by the nothing-to-worry-about conclusion. Ages 2–4. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cemetery Jamboree

Deborah Kadair Thomas. Pelican, $9.95 ISBN 978-1-4556-2239-9

Thomas (There Was a Tall Texan Who Swallowed a Flea) resurrects the spirits of famous figures connected to the city of New Orleans, picturing Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Andrew Jackson, and others as skeletons convening in a cemetery on Halloween. It’s a motley crew, to say the least: voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, pirate Jean Lafitte, and former governor Huey P. Long also make appearances. Unfortunately, Thomas’s herky-jerky rhymes (“Huey P. Long arrives in style,/ gathers a crowd, and stumps for a while./ He fills those spirits with promises grand:/ ‘Every man a king,’ he tells this loyal band”) and cut-paper artwork do little to conjure a festive affair—as more and more of the folk-naive skeletons crowd the pages, they mostly appear to be standing around. Young readers will need input from adults to learn anything substantial about these cultural and historical figures. Up to age 5. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cotton Candy Sally Finds a Home

Karen Belove. Karen Belove, $7.99 paper (90p) ISBN 978-0-692-67888-6

In this first book in the Sally Horse Chronicles, first-time author Belove follows an eight-year-old quarter horse named Sally from an Iowa farm to a New York City riding school after Sally’s owner is forced to sell her horses. Adjusting to city life proves difficult for Sally—a nearby expressway terrifies her—even with the patient efforts of the school’s owner and a girl named Kara. Belove doesn’t skirt the hard realities that come with training and keeping horses, but despite some tense and emotional moments, the story finds its way to a rewarding happy ending that suggests brighter days ahead for both Sally and Kara. Ages 8–13. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Little Whale: A Story of the Last Tlingit War Canoe

Roy Peretrovich. Univ. of Alaska, $16.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-60223-295-2

Kéet, the 10-year-old son of a Tlingit clan leader on the coast of what is now Alaska, accompanies his father on a sea voyage to another clan’s village in a story based on a real-life journey that Peretrovich’s grandfather took part in as a boy. Early chapters follow Kéet’s efforts to rescue a whale trapped in fishing lines, left by the “unusually pale” strange men who have been appearing in the area, before moving on to the sea excursion, which ends with a celebratory peace ceremony between the clans. Peretrovich includes a wealth of details about Tlingit culture and the community’s ties to the sea in this rousing historical adventure. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cole’s Perfect Puppy

Frances M. Crossno. First Edition Design, $14.95 paper (98p) ISBN 978-1-5069-0168-8

Newcomer Crossno introduces a boy named Cole, who adores Scarlett, a golden retriever puppy for sale at the mall pet store. Cole jumps at an offer to work as an assistant at the store, where he can earn enough money to buy Scarlett. The plot proceeds slowly until the dramatic final chapters, when Cole’s photographer parents go missing abroad, and the pet store unexpectedly closes. Tender scenes involving Cole, his younger brother, and a new friend are a highlight, but the dialogue and narration tend to be robotic; although the cost of pets is central to the story, options like shelter adoption are never discussed. Crossno incorporates an evangelical Christian subplot, and religious discussion questions are included. Ages 6–12. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Slingshot and Burp

Richard Haynes, illus. by Stephen Gilpin. Candlewick, $14.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7076-4

Over 10 lively chapters, first-time author Haynes unspools the story of cousins Slingshot and Burp, two cowboys-in-training armed with bicycle steeds, spitballs, red crayon brands, and an abundance of Wild West lingo. “Boll weevil!” cries Slingshot during one of their escapades. “My mouth is as dry as a dust devil.” Antagonistic older sisters, a blood-spitting lizard, and a legendary “Ghost Cat” all factor in to the boys’ adventures, which both Haynes and Gilpin paint as larger-than-life, even if real life occasionally intrudes (“Two lousy days in lockup,” is Slingshot’s response to getting grounded). It’s a boisterous tale that speaks to long summer days of (mostly) unfettered freedom. Ages 6–9. Illustrator’s agency: Shannon Associates. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan

Frances O’Roark Dowell, illus. by Amy June Bates. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $15.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4066-0

In a warm family story, Dowell introduces Sam Graham, age seven, who wants to earn money like his older sister, Annabelle. He offers to care for a neighbor’s chickens while she’s away, opening the door for a chicken of Sam’s own, as well as a friendship with the somewhat cantankerous Mr. Stockfish, another neighbor. Dowell’s story shines in Sam’s believable and often-funny interactions with his family, community, and friends. “You really needed to use the whole roll?” Sam’s mother asks after he makes a toilet paper nest for his chicken’s first egg. “Sam nodded again. Did she really need to ask?” Final art not seen by PW. Ages 6–9. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Infamous Ratsos

Kara LaReau, illus. by Matt Myers. Candlewick, $14.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7636-0

Louie and Ralphie Ratso are determined to be as tough as their truck-driver father, but the rats’ efforts go hilariously awry in this funny, thoughtful, and smart chapter book. In episodic escapades, they steal a classmate’s hat, make a new student a sandwich from the “worst foods they can find,” and soap a neighbor’s windows, only to be met with gratitude. “Pickled mushrooms and beets and eggplant, just like my nana used to make!” gushes gleeful sandwich recipient Fluffy Rabbitski. LaReau packs substantial comedy and poignant emotion into each chapter (the boys’ mother has “been gone for a little while now”), adeptly amplified by Myers’s spot art. Ages 5–8. Author’s agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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