cover image People Don’t Bite People

People Don’t Bite People

Lisa Wheeler, illus. by Molly Idle. Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9082-5

In a combination of listicle, admonishment, and pep talk, the well-matched Wheeler (Babies Can Sleep Anywhere) and Idle (the Flora books) remind children that they are too long in the tooth, so to speak, to be chomping on others: “Puppies bite and babies bite./ They’re much too young to know./ But you grow bigger every day/ and know where teeth should go.” Wheeler’s four-line stanzas deploy repetition and rhythm for maximum percussive punch (“It’s good to bite a carrot./ It’s good to bite a steak./ It’s bad to bite your sister!/ She’s not a piece of cake”). Idle’s pert, radiant pictures alternate between neatly divided worksheet-style grids (which correspond to the bitable and nonbitable items and people mentioned in the verse) and blithe vignettes: one mother fends off her little one by wielding a kitchen chair like a lion-tamer. The aesthetic is reminiscent of 1960s educational films, with every character exuding comic, pedagogical earnestness. Whether readers are biters, bite-ees, or witnesses to a biting incident, they’ll find this a toothsome treat. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)