cover image Rita and Whatsit

Rita and Whatsit

Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod, , illus. by Olivier Tallec. . Chronicle, $14.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-6550-0

Featuring wispy b&w line art with splashes of scarlet, this slight French import introduces a cranky girl who dismisses all her birthday gifts as “too big, too small [or] too medium.” Then one package catches Rita's attention when it takes off, bouncing across the room. “Get back here, present, or you'll regret it!” she yells. Finding a dog inside the box, she snarls a second warning: “if you're another stuffed animal, you're going in the trash!” The canine initially ignores his new mistress, whose attempts to name him elicit droll images. The dog's head pokes out of a sock drying on a clothesline as Rita considers calling him Kneesock, and the name Floormop pops into her head as she pushes a mop over the floor (and over the snoozing pup). Rita's scowl melts into a smile as Whatsit wins her over by revealing he can talk. Against white backdrops, Tallec's pencil drawings lend the characters' plenty of emotion and charm, though the text is mostly unremarkable (and Rita's transformation from bratty to bubbly is quite abrupt). Also available: Rita and Whatsit at the Beach . Ages 4–8. (May)