cover image Ninja Baby

Ninja Baby

David Zeltser, illus. by Diane Goode. Chronicle, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4521-3542-7

“When Nina was born, the doctor gently thumped her bottom to make sure she was breathing. Nina karate chopped her right back,” writes Zeltser (Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age) in the opening of his first picture book. What follows is a funny and pitch-perfect story about independence (and its flipside, loneliness), girl power, and sibling rivalry. Nina, a wide-eyed redhead, continues to exhibit impressive ninjalike qualities as she grows: she turns diaper changes into “hand-to-hand combat” and “obliterate[s] her applesauce” with an impressive flying kick. But when a second baby arrives, Nina is flummoxed: how is this “Kung Fu Master” able to manipulate her parents through sheer adorableness? Goode, whose balletic lines and zephyrlike washes of color harken back to her wonderful work in Founding Mothers and other titles, both amplifies the literate, wry text and applies her own visual humor (look at all those swaddling blankets littering the delivery room floor—more of Nina’s post-natal handiwork). A surprise ending proves that these apples don’t fall far from the tree. Ages 3–5. Author’s agent: Catherine Drayton, Inkwell Management. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Nov.)