cover image Square


Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, $15.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9607-8

Square, who squabbled with Triangle in the first volume of Barnett and Klassen’s Shape trilogy, suffers from a case of imposter syndrome in this second picture book offering. Circle sees Square pushing stone blocks one after the other to the top of a hill among huge, ghostly boulders. She mistakes them for self-portraits—“You are a genius! I did not know you were a sculptor!”—and insists that Square must make a sculpture of her. Anxiety overwhelms him. Slashes of rain cut across the spreads as the stone disintegrates under his hammer and chisel, amid his growing despair. In the morning, his circular pile of rubble holds a pool of rainwater, which reflects Circle’s image as she gazes downward. “It is perfect,” Circle gushes. “You are a genius.” Is Circle a good friend who sees the worth in Square’s work that he can’t see himself? Or is she just a flatterer? Poor Square isn’t sure, and readers aren’t, either. Square’s efforts to please are equal parts hilarious and cringeworthy, and the moment he topples over in exhaustion is comic gold. The story’s decidedly ambiguous conclusion leaves the door open for questions about what it means to be an artist—and that’s the whole point. Ages 5–9. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)