cover image The Next Door Bear

The Next Door Bear

Mary Kuryla, illus. by Eugene Yelchin. Harper, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-125925-8

In every respect, Emma is the new girl: "Apartment, neighborhood, kids. New, new, new." In fact, her sense of displacement is so acute that Yelchin renders her in pink while the rest of her world is blue. Emma's real problem is that she thinks it's up to the natives to ask her to join in: "They should know I'm new here," she says, standing on the sidelines as they make ecstatic runs through the sprinkler. But thanks to an odd fantasy that involves a bee, a mysterious (and rather trippy) garden, a magical elevator, and a hulking, suit-wearing bear who enjoys both tea and sprinkler dances, Emma learns that with a little effort on her part, she can fit right in. It feels as if Kuryla and Yelchin, in the husband-and-wife team's third collaboration, are trying to channel a little Hayao Miyazaki with this story's dreamy ambiguity, offbeat rhythms, spunky heroine, and enigmatic but well-meaning mentor figure. Kuryla's prose can be overly literal, while Yelchin's crisply inked illustrations slip effortlessly and intriguingly between the real and the imagined. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (June)