cover image Elbert in the Air

Elbert in the Air

Monica Wesolowska, illus. by Jerome Pumphrey. Dial, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-593-32520-9

When infant Elbert floats into the air soon after his birth, his mother stands on tiptoe to feed him. In response to a neighbor’s suggested alternative (“Net him like a butterfly”), she says simply, “If Elbert was born to float, I will let him.” Myriad logistical quandaries follow the child’s maturation. When it looks as if he’ll have to celebrate his birthday alone (“No one else is up here”), his mother climbs a ladder with a birthday cake. And she remains undaunted as school administrators and community officials complain about her son’s buoyancy, even mounting a fire escape to champion him. “Just be yourself,” she says, “and you’ll find friends.” Eventually, when he does, he returns the faithful love she’s shown him. Digital artwork from Pumphrey (Somewhere in the Bayou) portrays the duo with brown skin and a retro look, while a limited palette combines with blocky forms to highlight sign-like shapes, such as the crane Elbert’s mother scrambles up to hand him an encouraging gift. Imbuing a fairy tale setup with plausible real-world results, Wesolowska (Leo + Lea) writes a warming story of loving someone just the way they are. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Hannah Mann, Writers House. (Feb.)