cover image Rutabaga Boo!

Rutabaga Boo!

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illus. by Bonnie Adamson. Atheneum, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-2461-5

Whenever Bardhan-Quallen’s young protagonist says “Rutabaga” to his mother, she responds with “Boo!” It’s a multipurpose call-and-response game that can be a wake-up call, greeting, or backdrop to a game of hide-and-seek. But primarily it serves to ameliorate the boy’s separation anxieties: if Mom isn’t within his field of vision, he turns “Rutabaga” into an anxious substitute for “Where are you?” Bardhan-Quallen’s (Tyrannosaurus Wrecks!) two-word text (augmented at the end with the mother promising her sleeping child that “I always love you”) is a lovely tribute to the power of a silly shared catchphrase and the enormous reassurance that routine and ritual offer children. When the boy’s mother has to go away on what’s presumably a business trip, he comforts himself by making a “Rutabaga” sign that she can see when they video-chat. Lined in gracefully sketched pencil, Adamson’s (Bedtime Monster) soft, sunny watercolors have a striking acuity—readers will know exactly how the boy feels when there’s a lag time before he hears “Boo.” Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Mar.)