cover image Hornbeam All In (The Hornbeam Books #1)

Hornbeam All In (The Hornbeam Books #1)

Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Arthur Howard. Beach Lane, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-66592-481-8

A cautious moose named Hornbeam stars in this warmly rendered series kickoff comprising three gently comedic stories by Rylant and Howard, cocreators of the Motor Mouse books. Expressive colored pencil, watercolor, and gouache spreads capture Hornbeam’s reactions, zeroing in throughout the first tale on the moose’s apprehension as he and friend Eureka the goose head to a picnic that features more warmth, but less potato salad, than Hornbeam had anticipated. The protagonist sleeps—and snores—through most of the second story: when Hornbeam’s furnace stops working during a snowstorm, his overnight host Cuddy the cow graciously chooses to make the best of a sleepless night. The final tale traces the ripples created when Hornbeam’s skunk friend Adorabelle, an enthusiastic swimmer, insists that he learn to swim. In a moving moment that renders this story particularly strong, Hornbeam bravely “put a foot into the water. Then another foot. Then his whole moose self. Hornbeam was all in.” His persistence, and his friends’ support, earns him a skill and gives him something to be proud of. The creators plunge into the stories with characters and situations that are immediately relatable, and readers will follow Hornbeam wherever he goes. Ages up to 8. (Dec.)