cover image Stay Close to Mama

Stay Close to Mama

Toni Buzzeo, illus. by Mike Wohnoutka. Disney-Hyperion, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4231-3482-4

Like all babies, Twiga the giraffe is curious. He hears, smells, or sees something new and off he gallops, oblivious to the anxieties of his “tall, tall mama,” who knows that predators are everywhere on the savanna: “No, little Twiga. Stay close, stay safe.” There’s no doubt that readers and their parents will instantly see themselves in this loving but ongoing conflict over the need to explore and the need to protect, and they’ll undoubtedly find the two characters adorable and reassuring. But Buzzeo (One Cool Friend) and Wohnoutka’s (Can’t Sleep Without Sheep) execution falls short in key respects. The savanna looks more like a cheery local meadow than a hot, “dusty plain,” and this geographic de-clawing lowers the life-and-death stakes considerably. Furthermore, the writer and illustrator are at odds over whether Twiga ever understands how much danger he’s in (Buzzeo suggests yes, Wohnoutka seems to indicate no). Because the book deprives readers of a strong point of view, the scenes lack comedic or dramatic tension. Ages 1–5. Agent: Stefanie Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (Mar.)