cover image Phoebe and Digger

Phoebe and Digger

Tricia Springstubb, illus. by Jeff Newman. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5281-4

A new toy steam shovel becomes Phoebe’s ally in her displacement anxiety. When her baby sibling cries “Waa!” Phoebe and Digger respond with an equally robust “RMM!” (as well as some minor domestic damage). It takes a much-needed trip to the park, and the possible loss of Digger to a bully, to persuade Phoebe that she hasn’t lost her place in Mom’s affections. Springstubb (Mo Wren, Lost and Found) stumbles a bit at the wrap-up—she doesn’t need to tell readers that a hug from Mama is “The safest, happiest, best-loved place... a moment she wished would go on forever and a day”—but her sense of narrative economy and empathy is otherwise spot-on. Newman’s (Rabbit’s Snow Dance) stylized characterizations, saturated colors, spare backgrounds, and assured black line work bring to mind the best of UPA animation. Readers will cheer for sloe-eyed Phoebe as she veers from mischievous grin to slow burn and back again, just as they will covet Digger, the most expressive steam shovel since Mike Mulligan’s Mary Anne. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary Management. (Mar.)