cover image What Little Boys Are Made Of

What Little Boys Are Made Of

Robert Neubecker. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-202355-1

Given that the nursery rhyme Neubecker riffs on dates back to the 19th century (and that “snips” is actually old Northern England dialect for a kind of eel), it’s high time for an updated version. Thankfully, Neubecker (Wow! Ocean!) still plays it low tech—there are no references to Xbox or Lego Harry Potter. Instead he pays tribute to the joys of pretend play, all inspired by the old-fashioned contents of a boy’s toy box—action figures, stuffed animals, and sports equipment. The book is structured around straightforward domestic scenes that, with the turn of a page, become marvelously imagined adventures: pirate-themed props (“What are little boys made of?/ Sticks and stones and skulls and bones,/ Ships and sails and oceans and whales!”) lead the boy to pretend he’s commanding a multitude of swashbucklers on the high seas. The payoff spreads, not coincidentally, also allow Neubecker to concoct the kind of impressively detailed (and populated) images that are his signature. There’s enough gleeful rambunctiousness in these pages to entertain readers of all ages. Ages 4–8. Agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt Agency. (Apr.)