cover image Emergency Quarters

Emergency Quarters

Carlos Matias, illus. by Gracey Zhang. HarperCollins/Tegen, $19.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-327145-6

A note to the reader opens this sparkling children’s debut from Matias, who notes that before kids had cell phones, they used the pay phones once ubiquitous on city sidewalks, where each call cost a quarter. When Ernesto leaves for his inaugural day of school, walking for the first time without his parents, his dream to be a niño grande is fulfilled. But his mother still presses a quarter into his hand every morning: “For emergencies.” While his peers spend their pocket money, Ernesto holds onto his daily quarters, refusing to part with them for the treats at Señor José’s bodega or the tamales from Doña Tania’s truck, all painted in a beguiling, inky mix of energy and intimacy by Zhang (When Rubin Plays). “These quarters are for emergencies,” Ernesto explains, knowing that “each one is special.” But on Saturday, an “emergency” at the barber shop—one quite different from the one readers may have envisioned—offers an opportunity for independent decision-making. The creators convey bustling, life-giving bursts of sight, sound, taste, and smell as they detail Ernesto’s Dominican family, his Queens community, and his own canny balancing of prudence and pleasure. Ages 4–8. Agent (for author and illustrator): Hannah Mann, Writers House. (May)