I'm Not.

Pam Smallcomb, illus. by Robert Weinstock, Random/Schwartz & Wade, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-86115-4

Novelist Smallcomb's first picture book compares two alligatorlike creatures who are very different but still "true-blue friend[s]." "If Evelyn was a book, you'd read her all night under the covers to see what happened next," admits the timid narrator. Boisterous Evelyn repaints the narrator's bedroom ("She's a wonderful decorator. I'm not"), races around on roller skates, and is imaginative, willful, and bold—everything her friend is not. Smallcomb's spare text lets Weinstock (Can You Dig It?) run wild, as when Evelyn dresses up as the "Queen of England," wearing an orange rubber glove crown and carrying a toilet-plunger scepter. Just when it seems that the narrator is doomed to be eternally hapless, Smallcomb (the Trimoni Twins books) reveals that her areas of expertise (like karate and courage in the dark) are Evelyn's weaknesses. When Evelyn (obliviously) longs for a "friend who is always by her side," the narrator, her confidence restored, answers, "I AM! I AM! I AM!" The theme of respect for diverse talents and personalities comes through without a trace of didacticism in this entertaining, very funny story. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)