cover image Monk Camps Out

Monk Camps Out

Emily Arnold McCully. Arthur A. Levine Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-09976-9

Parents and kids alike will find much to love in this sweet picture book about a child's blossoming independence. Monk, last seen honing his baseball skills in Mouse Practice, now wants to camp out in his backyard, all by himself. ""I'll be okay!"" he assures his accommodating though nervous parents. Even after night falls a little too dark and too quiet for Monk's liking, he's still determined to enjoy being on his own. But when he awakes with a start and realizes his beloved baseball mitt is nowhere in the tent, he slips into the house to retrieve it--at the same moment Mom and Dad decide to creep into the backyard and sleep on the lawn to keep Monk company. At daybreak, the family discovers the mix-up and happily reunites for breakfast. McCully (Mirette on the High Wire) uses a light and deft touch to address the tender anxieties that accompany rites of passage. The spare yet chipper text delineates the action while cheery watercolor and pen-and-ink scenes, by turns busy and cozy, are freckled with asides that give the story its heart. Accompanying the line ""First, Monk had to make a tent,"" for example, is a view of the parents at the window: ""Should we help him?"" ""Absolutely not."" On the next page, the parents are busy at work: ""They only helped a little."" Affectionate, funny and wise, this is wholly a treat. Ages 3-9. (Apr.)