cover image The Runaway Belly Button

The Runaway Belly Button

John Flannery, illus. by Mika Song. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-250-20284-0

Grace’s navel is sick and tired of getting “dirtier... and stinkier... and filthier,” writes Flannery (Beard Boy), especially since Grace is so good at keeping the rest of her body clean (“We smell great!” say her feet, beaming). So Belly Button—drawn by Song (Love, Sophia on the Moon) as a tan circle with stick arms and legs, a resolute face, and a tousle of black hair that matches her owner’s—makes a break for it, “down Grace’s leg, through the house, and out the back door.” Thanks to an encounter with Grace’s car-washing father, Belly Button finally discovers the joys of being clean. She also finds that the outside world is fraught with predatory birds, sticky bubble gum, and, worst of all, an icky storm sewer, rendered in menacing scrawls and swirls of color. But Grace doesn’t give up her runaway anatomy, and once the two are safely back home, she honors her promise to keep Belly Button tidy. The adventure portion of the story feels a bit familiar, but the novelty of a sentient navel protagonist enables this book to work as both solid entertainment and useful hygiene instruction. Ages 3–6. (Sept.)