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Hidden World: Ocean

Libby Walden, illus. by Stephanie Fizer Coleman. 360 Degrees, $14.99 (18p) ISBN 978-1-944530-15-0

Six horizontal flaps are stacked up on each spread of Walden and Coleman’s satisfying introduction to ocean life. Handsome stylized portraits of the animals appear on each flap, and they are grouped by categories based on their size (blue whale, giant squid), camouflage abilities, and habitats, such as the ocean floor and coral reefs. Lifting the flaps shows each animal within its habitat, along with a brief description (“This octopus’s blue rings flash brightly when it feels threatened”). Coleman’s cheerful artwork brings readers up close to these 36 creatures, while the text offers an array of concise but intriguing details about what makes them special. Simultaneously available: Hidden World: Forest. Ages 4–6. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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What’s Next Door?

Nicola O’Byrne. Nosy Crow, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9634-4

Carter, the crocodile previously seen in Open Very Carefully, needs readers’ help to get home in this metafictional follow-up. As in the previous book, an unseen narrator directs the action, asking readers to trace dotted lines to create a series of doors for Carter to travel through. The doors, which appear as die-cuts, take Carter to ocean, desert, and snowy landscapes, requiring additional intervention (“Let’s try to get rid of the snow. Can you turn the book upside down and shake the snow out?”) O’Bryne builds light suspense (“I do hope he isn’t going to eat us”) while giving readers an active role in helping Carter make it back to his swampy lagoon. Ages 3–7. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Moon: A Peek-Through Picture Book

Patricia Hegarty, illus. by Britta Teckentrup. Doubleday, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6966-6

Die-cuts reveal the phases of the moon as it waxes and wanes in this companion to Tree and Bee. “Have you ever wondered why/ The moon shines in the nighttime sky?” writes Hegarty as the book opens. “How every creature, plant, and tree/ Is subject to its mystery?” Teckentrup’s grainy-textured images reveal the nocturnal worlds of animals in a variety of habitats that include the desert and a beach where turtles amass to lay their eggs under a full moon (oddly, the moon blinks out and becomes a new moon on the following page). Though readers won’t learn much about the animals or moon itself, it’s still a dramatic and poetic nighttime journey. Ages 3–7. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Alfie and Bet’s ABC

Patricia Hegarty, illus. by Maddie Frost. Kane Miller, $12.99 (16p) ISBN 978-1-61067-647-2

In this playfully combative pop-up abecedary, Alfie and Bet—a googly-eyed alligator and bear—love the letters of the alphabet, but they can’t seem to agree on which letter is the best of all. Pop-up letters rise out of Frost’s busy scenes, which feature objects and animals that begin with each letter. “But D is for dog,/ and here’s E, F, and G!/ For eggs, fox, and goat—/ oh, we’ll never agree!” cries Alfie. Hegarty’s rhymes can be a little unwieldy and convoluted in places, but Frost’s goofy cartoon animals and the simple pop-ups provide an inviting intro to the ABCs. Ages 3–6. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My First Toolbox: Press Out & Play

Jessie Ford. Abrams Appleseed, $14.99 (10p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2929-4

Tool meet numbers in this large-format board book, which features five colorful cardboard tools that children can pop-up or manipulate. A measuring tape extends, the ends of a wrench fit into two hexagonal nuts, and a flathead screwdriver can rotate the heads of three screws. In the nifty final spreads, removable nails can be hammered into slots on the side of the page, and readers can move a saw through die-cut slats (“Use your saw to make 5 cuts in this wood”). Ford effectively mimics basic carpentry tasks in this neatly designed book, giving readers the chance to develop their fine motor skills. Ages 3–5. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Little Blue Truck’s Springtime

Alice Schertle, illus. by Jill McElmurry. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $12.99 (16p) ISBN 978-0-544-93809-0

Schertle and the late McElmurry’s lightly anthropomorphic blue truck returns for a joyful springtime lift-the-flap outing. As the Little Blue Truck travels through an idyllic farm landscape, readers can look beneath large flaps to discover newborn animals underneath (“Who’s out swimming in a line?/ Yoo-hoo, Duck and ducklings nine!”). The cheerful scenes offer plenty of opportunities for animal identification and counting (Sheep has just given birth to twins, 10 piglets share a muddy sty with Mama Pig), and a closing scene brings together all the little ones for a festive finale that sees them decked out in floral garlands. Up to age 3. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Winterfolk

Janel Kolby. HarperTeen, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-248700-1

Rain lives with her alcoholic father in a homeless camp outside Seattle. Despite threats to dismantle the encampment, Rain believes that those who live there—the Winterfolk, she calls them—are essentially invisible. Her only friend is King, a homeless 17-year-old who has taken it upon himself to look after her. When King takes Rain into the city to celebrate her 15th birthday, he crosses paths with Cook, a petty drug dealer, and that’s where the trouble begins. Debut novelist Kolby explores homelessness through the eyes of a teenage girl who can’t remember not living in a tent in the woods; a stripped-down narrative voice and the language of fairy tales shape Rain’s worldview. Kolby creates a believably naïve main character, but some readers may find Rain’s musings, which are often repetitive and opaque (“We step careful over the thorny blackberry branches. I clench my teeth to keep from talking to the blackberries upon blackberries, mostly fresh and waiting to rot, the rest smashed”), a barrier to fully appreciating her story. Ages 14–up. Agent: Beth Phelan, Bent Agency (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Last to Let Go

Amber Smith. S&S/McElderry, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8073-4

Smith (The Way I Used to Be) takes up domestic violence and its far-reaching consequences in this empathetic novel of learning to live with painful realities. Sophomore Brooke Winters comes home from school one day to find the police taking her mother into custody after she stabbed and killed Brooke’s physically abusive father. The rest of Smith’s novel deals with the emotional and practical fallout of this tragedy, including its effect on Brooke’s younger sister, Callie, who saw the killing; older brother Aaron, who is trying to keep the family together; and Brooke herself, as she navigates a new school in the fall and comes to terms with her sexuality. A few bright spots surface as Brooke moves through the chaos of her family situation: falling in love with new friend Dani and reconnecting with her Aunt Jackie, who provides the siblings with a source of stability and comfort. But Smith never sugarcoats Brooke’s life; she’s forced to make peace with her new reality, one that readers must accept alongside her in this difficult, honest novel. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jess Regel, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Girl Like That

Tanaz Bhathena. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-30544-4

Bhathena makes an impressive debut with this eye-opening novel about a free-spirited girl in present-day Saudi Arabia. Orphaned at a young age, Zarin Wadia moves in with her uncle and abusive aunt, who constantly shames and beats her. “Some people hide, some people fight to cover up their shame,” Zarin explains. “I was always the kind of person who fought.” Her treatment at school is even worse—she’s shunned for being different (she’s Zoroastrian, for starters) and responds by smoking cigarettes and sneaking out with boys. After Zarin gets reacquainted with a childhood friend, Porus, she becomes dependent on him for escape, protection, and the type of gentle affection she has not felt since her mother’s death. Readers know from the outset that Zarin and Porus die in a gruesome car accident, and their reflective post-death narratives share space with chapters written from the perspectives of others in their orbits. Bhathena’s novel should spur heated discussions about sexist double standards and the ways societies restrict, control, and punish women and girls. Ages 14–up. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Tempests and Slaughter

Tamora Pierce. Random House, $18.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-375-84711-0

In the intriguing first book of Pierce’s Numair Chronicles, set in the medieval fantasy world of her Tortall books, she provides an in-depth look into the magical education and youth of Arram Draper, who later becomes the powerful mage Numair Salmalín. At age 10, Arram is the youngest mage in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak. His raw talent or Gift is enormous and difficult for him to control; it both gets him into trouble and gets him noticed. He quickly makes friends with his roommate, prince Ozorne Tasikhe, and the lovely and kind Varice Kingsford. Although Pierce touches on weighty subjects including slavery and the environment, they’re balanced by the relatively lighthearted adventures of Arram and his new friends. She makes the most of the university setting, hinting at possible conflict ahead by way of Ozorne’s wish to avenge his father’s death. Pierce’s many fans will thrill to discover the backstory behind one of their favorite characters. Ages 12–up. Agent: Craig Tenney, Harold Ober Associates. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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