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Shapes, Reshape!

Silvia Borando. Candlewick, $14 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9039-7

Stacks of brightly colored rectangles reorganize themselves into animals in a playful primer that counts down from 10 to one. “These shapes reshape into jumpy things! What could they be?” asks Borando opposite a heap of green rectangles, which are accompanied by a few skinny red ones. A page turn reveals “9 frogs, slimy and slurping,” the red blocks transformed into the amphibians’ long, pointy tongues. Other animals include four boxy lions, roaring as they leap, and a giant dragon that gets scared off by a tiny spider in a goofy coda. It’s an entertaining guessing game that could easily lead into art projects in classrooms, libraries, and homes. Available simultaneously: Shapes at Play. Ages 2–5. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Walter’s Wonderful Web

Tim Hopgood. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-30352-5

In a lighthearted introduction to five basic shapes, a big-eyed spider named Walter attempts to build a web that will withstand the gusting wind. Walter’s initial attempts, which include triangular, square, and diamond-shaped webs, aren’t up to the task, and even a strong-looking circular web gets blown away. Eventually, Walter weaves an enormous web that incorporates all of the shapes—a “truly wonderful web” that gleams in the moonlight. Hopgood doesn’t really get into why Walter’s final web is strong enough to get the job done (if anything, the implication is that size, not shape, is what matters), but the story still offers opportunities for adults to discuss shapes—and the habits of spiders—with young readers. Ages 2–4. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/22/2016 | Details & Permalink

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We Found a Hat

Jon Klassen. Candlewick, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5600-3

Klassen's I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat stand alone, but they also form a setup for this tale, in which two turtles stumble upon a big white hat in the desert ("We found a hat. We found it together") and try it on in turn ("It looks good on both of us"). Klassen's artwork, spare and sly, tells a different story. The hat does not look good. It looks silly, as if the turtle's head were stuck in a plastic bucket. "We must leave the hat here and forget that we found it," says the first turtle, with fairness in mind. The other turtle's gaze shifts left. It wants that hat. Readers of the earlier stories will recognize that look; it bodes ill. Klassen divides the book into three distinct acts; in the second, as the turtles watch the sunset, the second turtle's eyes again stray toward the hat. Uh-oh. In the third section, the first turtle settles down to sleep, and the shifty-eyed turtle begins inching toward the hat, talking all the while to the first turtle ("Are you all the way asleep?"). Readers who think they know what's coming will be wrong: the conclusion doesn't involve sharing, peacemaking, or violence. Instead, Klassen considers the instant at which a decision to act can break either way, depending on who's tempted and whether anyone else is watching. In contrast to the first two books, which relied on a certain conspiratorial menace, this one ends with a moment of grace and a sky full of stars. All three stories are about justice. It's just that justice doesn't always mean the same thing. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/15/2016 | Details & Permalink

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