cover image You Can’t Be Too Careful!

You Can’t Be Too Careful!

Roger Mello, trans. from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. Elsewhere, $18 (36p) ISBN 978-0-914671-64-0

Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Mello unspools a long, strange chain of people and events, only to reverse course and present an alternate (and frankly much cheerier) timeline. It all begins with White Rose, a flower carefully watched by a gardener; he never leaves the flower’s side, not even after catching cold from walking around barefoot. The gardener’s shoes, Mello explains, were hidden by his cat, a gift from his brother, whose wife inherited the pet from her uncle, who “died of sorrow waiting for a love letter that never came.” More than a dozen eccentric interconnected characters are introduced from there—an escaped circus monkey, an irate goldsmith, a “fake doctor” with bagpiping dreams, and more. It’s like a floral equivalent to the butterfly effect, all leading back to White Rose, who suddenly reappears to steal the compass rose off a map. But how can she, if she’s still being watched by the gardener? Mello’s twisty, exaggerated images are as unruly as the paradoxical story he presents. Readers may not know what to believe, and when White Rose escapes at book’s end—for real, this time—it’s anyone’s guess what chaos might follow. Ages 5–8. (Apr.)