cover image BABY RADAR


Naomi Shihab Nye, , illus. by Nancy Carpenter. . HarperCollins/Greenwillow, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15948-1

Capturing a stroller-bound toddler's delight in moving "Out! Out!/ Into the wind/ on wheels," Carpenter's (Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books) loose-line watercolor-and-ink illustrations are the high point of this playfully conceived picture book. The artist, who clearly knows kids' body language, ably shifts perspectives, from what the toddler sees (what is within the baby's radar) to glimpses of the toddler as she delights in the simple pleasures of a city stroll. For example, Carpenter offers a close-up of adult faces, with the toddler's hand reaching up ("Sometimes/ [people] lean over/ say Cute!/ I want to pinch/ their noses") and on another page, gives readers a view of the toddler as she apprehensively watches a dog with a "meanie mouth." However, the tone of Nye's (19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East) text changes abruptly throughout from toddler-talk to poet-talk. For example, the narrative lurches from full-sentence descriptions ("When smiley dogs pass/ I reach for the fur/ of the nice faces") to impressionistic glimpses ("Lost newspaper/ stuck to a bench/ Hot dog dropped/ mooshy mess"). The title (the meaning of radar will elude most two-year-olds) reflects the discrepancy here between what an adult might know and what the stroller-riding audience might understand. At times the text invites readers to identify with the speaker, but other times to giggle at her (a tissue temptingly poking out from a lady's shopping bag is "mine! It's mine! Everything's mine!"). This outing has strong moments, but never quite hits its stride. Ages 2-up. (Sept.)