cover image Neville


Norton Juster, illus. by G. Brian Karas. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-86765-1

In this emotionally authentic tale of an unhappy new kid in town, Karas (Young Zeus) pictures the boy—unnamed at first—punting a box off his front stoop, then grumpily taking his mother’s advice to “take a little walk down the block.” The boy slouches to a street corner and begins to call out the name “Neville.” As he shouts, other children gather to help and ask about Neville (“When did he move here?”). Oddly, they never ask the boy his own name, nor do they fret when Neville fails to appear. By sunset, the displaced child can half-smile at having made acquaintances. Karas’s melancholy illustrations brighten and expand as the mood improves; small, quiet type sets the sullen tone, until colorful hand-lettered display type implies the children’s collective chatter. Readers learn the boy’s name only at bedtime (hint: it starts with N), a resolution that reinforces sympathy. Juster (The Odious Ogre) identifies a common, stressful situation, and Karas handles the drama with compassion, implying a lonely, single-parent household. Even if the narrative logic falls short, this poignant tale expresses a longing for connections. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)