cover image Lottie's New Beach Towel

Lottie's New Beach Towel

Petra Mathers. Atheneum Books, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81606-2

In the spirit of her Sophie and Lou, Mathers captivates readers with this unorthodox oceanside outing starring two charming feathered friends. As Lottie, a chicken, prepares for a picnic with her duck pal Herbie, a package arrives: a red-and-white polka-dotted beach towel sent by Aunt Mattie, who thought it ""might come in handy."" Aunt Mattie was right: by day's end the towel has, among other things, helped Lottie carry her ice cooler across the burning sand (""Hop off the towel onto the cooler. Towel, cooler, off, on... all the way down to the water""), served as a sail for Herbie's boat and provided a stylish if unconventional headdress for a bride whose veil has blown away. That night Lottie sits down to write the thank-you note to end all thank-you notes, while the towel dries on a clothesline under a starlit indigo sky. Mathers paints a portrait of a winsome heroine characterized by unflagging practical resourcefulness and bursts of romantic inspiration. She achieves this end through the expert crafting of a low-key yet humorous text and droll art. For example, in a double-spread of four panels, Mathers depicts Lottie when she first reaches the beach and challenges a wave; then as the wave sweeps her up so that only her feet show, next in a barrage of bubbles and finally the discombobulated chicken says, ""Is that my foot? Silly me, it's a starfish."" Mathers builds pleasingly uncluttered compositions with simple lines, flat perspectives and bright colors, using detail sparingly but whimsically (after lunch Mattie knits a lime-green three-toed sock). A sunny, summery book that captures the feel of a long, eventful day at the beach, and one that will be remembered for many seasons to come. Ages 3-8. (June)