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The Itsy Bitsy Snowman

Jeffrey Burton, illus. by Sanja Rescek. S&S/Little Simon, $5.99 (16p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4837-6

A young, rosy-cheeked snowman stars in this wintertime riff on “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” In an echo of the original spider’s waterspout travails, the snowman has trouble keeping its limbs and body in one piece as it sleds through a cozy winter landscape of animals dressed in hats and scarves, who race around on skies and ice skates themselves. After the snowman crash lands in a small village, “Out came his friends to lend a happy hand./ And everything was perfect in his winter wonderland.” Both the rhymes and artwork are unapologetically sugary, but the book’s nursery rhyme underpinnings should result in some fun readalouds. Ages 2–4. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Be Careful, Icarus!

Joan Holub, illus. by Leslie Patricelli. Abrams Appleseed, $6.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1677-5

In the fifth entry in the Mini Myths series, a young Icarus proves just as reckless as his mythological forebear. This time around, though, the worst that happens is that Icarus spills some paint and gets his kite stuck in a tree after he tries to fly it ever higher. “Don’t worry. We can fix it,” reassures Icarus’s father, who goes unnamed in this abbreviated adaptation. Like the previous books in the series, it’s a playful modern-day riff on a classic mythological tale; readers curious about the original can get a taste of it in a brief recounting on the final page. Simultaneously available: Please Share, Aphrodite! Ages 1–3. Author’s agent: Liza Pulitzer Voges, Eden Street Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Charley Harper’s Count the Birds

Zoe Burke, illus. by Charley Harper. PomegranateKids (pome-
granate.com), $10.95 (24p) ISBN 978-0-7649-7246-1

Harper’s stylized bird portraits guide readers from one to 10, accompanied by equally crisp verse from Burke. A bold palette of reds, blues, and golds grabs attention immediately, while Harper’s geometric interpretations of bluebirds, pelicans, owls, and other birds are a case study in the interplay between colors, shapes, and patterns. In one of the niftiest sequences (“Three/ Grosbeaks/ Wait to fly/ Four/ Puffins/ Pass us by”), the top corners of a taupe square define the heads of all three grosbeaks, while the crisscrossing bodies of puffins create black triangles. It’s a sure bet for new families with modernist tastes. Simultaneously available: Charley Harper’s Book of Colors and Charley Harper’s Animal Alphabet. Up to age 5. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Curious Critters Michigan

David FitzSimmons. Wild Iris (IPG, dist.), $7.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-936607-31-0

Readers living in or visiting the Great Lakes State can get a sense of 16 animals they might see there in this regional spin-off of FitzSimmons’s picture book series. As in his earlier titles, FitzSimmons’s crisp, up-close nature photography is at the center of this book, offering detailed portraits of a painted turtle, cardinal, milk snake, opossum, and more. Brief, repeating text encourages readers to look or listen for the animals (of a wood thrush: “Listen for me singing Eee-oh-lay! throughout forests in Michigan”), and the white backdrops keep the focus on the delicate details of their fur, feathers, and other features. Simultaneously available: Curious Critters Ohio. Up to age 4. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Up Hamster, Down Hamster

Kass Reich. Orca, $9.95 (24p) ISBN 978-1-4598-1013-6

The irrepressible rodents from Hamsters Holding Hands and This Little Hamster return to showcase opposites, and their antics should have children giggling from start to finish. A hungry “yes hamster” reacts with delight when a hamster chef lifts a cloche to reveal a slice of cake; the same diner becomes a “no hamster” on the facing page, where the chef has cooked up something green and smelly. Elsewhere, a “good” artist hamster turns “bad” when he decides to draw on his friends instead of on paper. Reich’s loosely outlined ovoid hamsters are full of energy and mischievousness, day or night, fast or slow, up or down. Up to age 3. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Surprise for Tiny Mouse

Petr Horacek. Candlewick, $8.99 (16p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7967-5

Die-cut pages and an interactive turn-wheel enliven the quietly evocative story of a gray mouse. Summer becomes autumn becomes winter as the pages flip, and Tiny Mouse makes the most of each season: “Tiny Mouse loves nibbling wheat in the sunshine. She likes to watch the crackly leaves blow in the wind.” When spring rain showers arrive, Tiny Mouse dives through a round die-cut hole, and the final spread shows her peeking out from her grassy burrow; turning a wheel embedded in the back cover allows readers to make a rainbow emerge as the sun returns. It’s a simple, direct, and pleasing through-the-seasons adventure. Up to age 3. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Carnival of Cats

Charles Ghigna, illus. by Kristi Bridgeman. Orca, $9.95 (26p) ISBN 978-1-4598-0686-3

Ghigna and Bridgeman offer a rhyming guessing game featuring 10 cats, set against the festive atmosphere of a carnival. Pennants, balloons, lanterns, and confetti adorn Bridgeman’s mixed-media illustrations, while readers can turn the pages to complete Ghigna’s playful rhymes: “Fluffy fur./ Fun to pat./ Could that be a.../ Persian cat!/ Eyes the size/ of a harvest moon./ Could that be a.../ Great Maine Coon!” Bridgeman’s wide-eyed cats can initially be spied peeking through small square frames; page turns reveal them displaying their circus-worthy talents: a tabby cat grins widely as it balances on a ball, and a black Bombay walks a tightrope. Cat lovers of any age should be delighted. Up to age 3. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Busy Baby: Friends

Sara Gillingham. Chronicle, $9.99 (10p) ISBN 978-1-4521-4188-6

Gillingham makes turning a baby’s frown into a smile as simple as can be. A round disk embedded in the center of this board book spins on a post; on one side, the baby has a half-circle smile, while on the other, its mouth is inverted in an expression of mild sadness and shock. As readers move through the book, preschool situations that might warrant a frown (having to share a tambourine, spilling paint during art time) are quickly resolved, so smiles are just as appropriate. The animals, shapes, musical instruments, and clothing that feature in Gillingham’s always-attractive artwork offer ample opportunities for side conversations. Simultaneously available: Busy Baby: Trucks. Up to age 2. Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Skinhead Birdy

Evan Jacobs. Saddleback, $9.95 paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-62250-967-6

Two troubled teens find salvation in each other as they struggle with personal problems in this hard-hitting entry to the Gravel Road series, written at a third-grade reading level. Sophomore Tyler Ruiz is the new guy at Banks High School, having been kicked out of his previous school for retaliating against a teacher. Life at home has been strained since his mother died; his abusive father, an Afghanistan veteran, battles PTSD and alcoholism. Journal writing serves as a release for Tyler until he falls hard for Sara, the beguiling punk skinhead from school. But Tyler soon realizes that Sara’s late-night adventures and mood swings are not just quirky personality traits, but by-products of mental illness. Jacobs paints a realistic portrait of Sara’s manic behavior and demonstrates how concern and attention from others strengthens Tyler’s own ability to cope. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Rodeo Princess

M.G. Higgins. Saddleback, $9.95 paper (108p) ISBN 978-1-68021-061-3

Cattle-ranching life provides the backdrop for Higgins’s addition to the Gravel Road Rural line, written at a second-grade level. Jade is plenty busy juggling high school, chores, horse training, and tending to her father and brothers while her mother is stationed overseas in the military. But she’s also in love with her former best friend Amy, who ended their friendship after a shared kiss three years ago. Keeping her secret from everyone—including the boyfriend who cherishes her—weighs heavy on Jade, and things reach a breaking point when she is scheduled to compete against Amy in the barrel-racing event at the annual rodeo. Heavy use of sentence fragments (“I wash dishes. Take care of the horses. Check Freddie’s leg”) makes for choppy reading, but a hopeful if somewhat rushed ending suggests that better days lie ahead for Jade. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2015 | Details & Permalink

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