cover image The Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles

The Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles

Jake Gyllenhaal and Greta Caruso, illus. by Dan Santat. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-2507-7699-0

It’s bad enough when Leo’s glasses fly off during his beloved ballet class, causing a pileup up at the barre. Then Uncle Mo, the very picture of a stickler, shows up to babysit and rattles off a litany of rules, ending with a final coup de grace—“Bedtime is at 8 p.m. And no dessert tonight.” Clearly the universe can’t allow that to stand, and the two, portrayed with pale skin, are suddenly whisked into “the wonderful in-between,” where the Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles “preserves the ancient arts of Auntieology and Uncleology.” A kid panel quickly deems Uncle Mo in need of Emergency Basic Training, during which he learns the ways of nibling connection: bedtime is “always three minutes before Mom and Dad get home,” making sundaes counts as cooking, and a nephew is not a charge to be managed, but a real human being. In a double picture book debut, actor Gyllenhaal and entrepreneur Caruso expand on a winning premise that explains why aunts and uncles become the cool adult in so many children’s lives. Caldecott Medalist Santat infuses the story with all the verve of a game show challenge, portraying the Secret Society’s trainees, of various species and human skin tones, with oodles of comic drama. Ages 4–6. (Sept.)