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New York City Monsters: A Search and Find Book

Anne Paradis, illus. by Lucile Danis Drouot. City Monsters, $9.99 (22p) ISBN 978-2-924734-02-5

Paradis and Drouot take readers on a whimsical tour of the Big Apple in 10 scenes devoted to the city's landmarks and highlights, while simultaneously asking them to locate small (and not-so-small) monsters hidden throughout. The text offers a taste of city life, but the chief source of the book's fun comes from the visual variety of the monsters Drouot includes in her carefully detailed artwork, and the clever ways she hides them: these monsters can be seen driving taxis, blending in with leafy green trees, and looking a lot like typical Times Square tourists—if not for the tusks and tentacles that give them away. Simultaneously available: Chicago Monsters and San Francisco Monsters. Ages 3–up. (May)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Real or Fake? 2: More Far-out Fibs, Fishy Facts, and Phony Photos to Test for the Truth

Emily Krieger, illus. by Tom Nick Cocotos. National Geographic Children’s, $7.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4263-2778-0

In this follow-up to 2016’s Real or Fake?, Krieger presents dozens of brief, headline-worthy tales, then asks readers to determine which are real and which are made up, with the answers revealed after a page turn (an illustrated “Fib-o-Meter” reveals each item’s level of veracity). Savvy readers may spot several of the fake stories (the case of Yuri Lukovich, a man purportedly injected with badger DNA, reads like a superhero origin story gone wrong). But plenty of unlikely stories are entirely true: in Germany, a woman did claim to be stalked by a squirrel and called the police, and there is such a thing as a beard tax. Even the fictional stories often have some tangential truths at their core: although there aren’t hotel rooms in Sydney, Australia, with beds made from slabs of stone, there is an ice hotel in Sweden. Constructed of overlapping photographs in a way that recalls a cobbled-together ransom note, Cocotos’s collages bring an off-kilter energy to the pages, just right for this array stories that are too wild to be believed—or shouldn’t be. Ages 8–12. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive!

Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson, illus. by
Lisa K. Weber. Walden Pond, $17.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-241879-1

Each chapter of this highly entertaining volume, first in a series, recounts three hard-to-believe stories that revolve around plants, animals, or humans. But only two of them are true, leaving it to readers to identify the invented one. In one example, the choices include a tree-dwelling octopus, a headless chicken, or tiny, cave-dwelling dragons. Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as a tree octopus, though the authors’ description of it is persuasive (“In the early 2000s, the tree octopus was on the verge of extinction, but a strong grassroots campaign by dedicated Pacific Northwest communities helped reverse that”). Color infographics and photographs—some real, others fabricated—blur the truth further (one photo in the aforementioned chapter shows a bald eagle in flight, with an octopus in its talons). Readers can also have fun finding the false entries in 10-item lists of dinosaur names, diseases, body parts, and more. The authors’ casual tone should easily draw readers in, and activities at the end of each chapter underscore a key goal underneath all the fun: developing critical thinking skills. Ages 8–12. Authors’ agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Build a... T-rex

Illus. by Kiki Ljung. Frances Lincoln, $12.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-84780-923-0

This board book aims at an older crowd, and with good reason: the sturdy pages are just right for storing 10 removable cardboard pieces, which readers can assemble to create a model Tyrannosaurus rex. The straightforward (and occasionally grisly) text also reflects a more advanced readership; it opens with a brief prehistoric timeline, followed by details and hypotheses about T. rex, both the good (“T-rex had a bone-crushing bite”) and the bad (“No-one really knows what T-rex’s arms were for”). Ljung’s graphics give the pages a fresh, contemporary look, and bones revealed when the model pieces are removed lend a sense of the dinosaur’s skeletal structure. It’s a nifty, hands-on introduction to a fan favorite dino. Simultaneously available: Build a... Butterfly. Ages 5–8. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Catch Me If You Can

Cindy Jin, illus. by Stephan Lomp. Little Simon, $6.99 (16p) ISBN 978-1-4814-9218-8

A pink cat and orange dog use cars, boats, jetpacks, and hot-air balloons as they race against each other, and newcomer Jin lets children test their speed, too. Die-cut holes appear in each spread: parents are invited to poke their fingers through them, and children are supposed to catch those fingers before they disappear. It’s a nifty, whack-a-mole-esque concept that should prompt giggles, but it doesn’t quite come together. While Lomp’s retro artwork is vibrant and full of funny details, the accompanying rhymes can be clunky, and the interactive game itself a bit awkward to execute during lap-reading sessions. Ages 1–4. Illustrator’s agent: Anne Moore Armstrong, Bright Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Animals Hide and Sneak

Bastien Contraire. Phaidon, $9.95 (26p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7422-7

“On of these things is almost like the others,” begins this stylish spot-the-different board book, first in a series spun off of Contraire’s 2016 picture book, Undercover. The spreads—printed in purple, yellow, and the brown that shows up where they overlap—feature multiple animals, one of which is an interloper. As in Undercover, there’s sly humor at work in many scenes: seven snakes are paired with a single belt (snakeskin, perhaps?), there’s a wolf among the sheep, and three long-necked birds are joined by a (mechanical) crane. Children may not have trouble spotting the out-of-place animal or object, but the book’s real delights come from contemplating the visual or thematic reasons why it’s there. Ages 1–3. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Ten Little Owls

Renée Treml. Random House Australia (IPG/Trafalgar Sq., dist.), $9.99 (24p) ISBN 978-0-14-378056-4

Writing in rhymes that never hit a false note, Treml provides a lilting introduction to Australian wildlife in this counting board book that begins as “1 little wombat wake from his rest” and concludes with him returning to bed several pages later. In between, readers meet two hopping mice, seven peach-sharing bats, and other animals, all of which are captured in intricately detailed black-and-white portraits and set against quiet pastel backdrops. The only details given about the animals are their names, so parents may need to do some a bit of background research if questions arise about quolls, Tasmanian devils, sugar gliders, and the like. Up to age 5. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Getting Ready

Illus. by Cororetto. Child’s Play, $14.99 (12p) ISBN 978-1-84643-886-8

Enthusiastic narration and a bevy of tactile elements propel children through the steps involved in getting out of bed and prepared for the day. Simply defined objects sit against vivid, solid-color backdrops: purple corduroy pants appear against a yellow background (“Put your legs in. Pull up!”), while four pairs of patterned socks are shown on a later spread (“Tickle those toes! Choose your socks”). A few of the textural elements are especially novel and well done: Velcro teeth make very convincing toothbrush bristles, and a jacket comes with a working zipper. It’s a cheery guide to morning routines, just right for go-getters. Up to age 5. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Feelings

Illus. by Sarah Jennings. Bloomsbury, $9.99 (14p) ISBN 978-1-68119-539-1

Rounded tabs help readers thumb between six emotions—excited, grumpy, happy, sad, scared, and shy—while a multiracial cast of children demonstrates each feeling. The spreads offer a range of advice about what readers can say, think, or do when they are feeling each emotion, with advice that ranges from silly and imagination-focused (such as “Have a cake daydream” when feeling sad) to more serious: “Run away fast,” reads one piece of advice on the “scared” pages, suggesting a reaction to a real threat, though “tell a grown-up” isn’t on the list of suggestions. On the whole, though, an air of reassurance reigns, especially in quips from a recurring cat character: “Everyone is shy or embarrassed sometimes.” Up to age 5. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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So Many Feet

Nichole Mara, illus. by Alexander Vidal. Abrams Appleseed, $12.95 (34p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2318-6

Sixteen animals and their useful-in-different-ways feet take center stage in this upbeat and informative board book. Mara uses a simple overarching rhyme to carry readers along (“High feet... Slow feet... Fast feet... Snow feet”) and supplies a sentence about how each animal uses its feet (“A polar bear’s feet spread wide to keep it from sinking into the snow”). Debut illustrator Vidal uses limited color palettes, clean shapes, and sharp edges to create scenes that make a big graphic impact and are well worth lingering over. A closing spread brings all of the animals back for an encore while asking readers to consider the things their own feet can do. Up to age 3. Illustrator’s agent: Stefanie Von Borstal, Full Circle Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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