cover image How to Cheer Up Dad

How to Cheer Up Dad

Fred Koehler. Dial, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3922-2

A spirited elephant is on a mission to improve his father’s mood—after having sorely tested his patience—in Koehler’s jaunty and smartly constructed debut. Dad’s day starts off badly when he puts raisins in Little Jumbo’s oatmeal. “He should have known what a mess that would make,” reads Koehler’s sly text, as Little Jumbo pea-shoots raisins to the ceiling with his trunk. Things quickly devolve as Little Jumbo’s antics earn him a timeout, but he sets things to rights with supposedly Dad-centric activities (“Since Dad loved dessert, Little Jumbo agreed to share an ice-cream cone”). Koehler’s words adopt the tone of a confident preschooler, while his sweetly scraggly illustrations depict the reality of each scenario with a wink; in an especially nifty moment, the yawning elephant on the cover of “Dad’s favorite story,” The Sleepy Little Elephant, masks Little Jumbo’s own face as they read together. Ample white space, a focused palette, and some quietly show-stopping moments (including a sunset spent fishing on a pier) keep focus on the highly relatable interactions between this father and son pair. Ages 3–5. Agent: Adams Literary. (Mar.)