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You Are Light

Aaron Becker. Candlewick Studio, $15.99 (16p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0115-4

Becker (the Journey trilogy) celebrates life-sustaining light in this unusual board book. Blending science and poetry with just a few words, the text introduces the ways that light shapes our world: “It sips the sea/ to make the rain”; “It lights the moon/ to kiss the night.” Corresponding symbols (a splashing ocean wave, a bright moon) lie at the center of each elegantly spare spread, surrounded by a ring of die-cut circles that gradually fill in with discs of transparent color as the pages turn. Like Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, this title will invite interactive read-alouds—its sturdy cut-outs are perfectly sized for small hands. Forming a luminous, rainbow-hued sphere when the covers close, the circular pattern of colors resembles stained glass window panels in a house of worship, as well as a secular view through a kaleidoscope, reinforcing the mood of quiet awe and universal connection in the book’s final lines: “This light is you. And you are the light.” Becker’s artful board book offers opportunities for tactile play and deeper contemplation. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Sun Shines Everywhere

Mary Ann Hoberman, illus. by Luciano Lozano. Little, Brown, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-316-52384-4

Former children’s poet laureate Hoberman celebrates the stalwart star that makes life possible and connects people regardless of where they live: “The world takes turns at day and night/ And each side has its share./ The sun is shining all the time!/ The sun shines everywhere!” The language is conversational, with lilting, playful internal and external rhymes: when Hoberman notes that the sun is important even to nocturnal animals, she singles out “the owls who hoot, the moles who root,/ The bats who swoop in flight.” Full-bleed spreads and spot illustrations by Lozano (Miles of Smiles) are rendered in soft colors and populated by rosy-cheeked folks and happy animals under a smiling, blossomlike sun. Some illustrations feel a little like a throwback to Disney’s It’s a Small World attraction—the Parisian child, dressed in traditional artist’s gear, stands by the Eiffel Tower; Chinese kids play a fishing game while a bright red Paifang rises in the background. Still, there’s a lot to be said for spreading a little sunshine through unironic high spirits and unalloyed good nature. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Gina Maccoby, Gina Maccoby Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Lubna and Pebble

Wendy Meddour, illus. by Daniel Egnéus. Dial, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-525-55416-5

Lubna and her father have come ashore in a new country, where they’re housed in a tent city. Lubna’s best friend is a pebble she picked up on the beach, “shiny and smooth and gray,” made cheerier by the happy face she draws on it with a marker: “Lubna told Pebble everything. About her brothers. About home. About the war.” After a small boy named Amir arrives, Lubna and Pebble befriend him. Then Lubna’s father announces that they’re leaving for a new home, and Amir despairs. Following a sleepless night, the girl knows what she must to do to comfort him. Spacious, soaring spreads by Egnéus (Raven Child and the Snow-Witch) add flashes of imaginative escape to the poignant story by Meddour (The Glump and the Peeble). He shows the action from Lubna’s point of view, rendering interactions between her and Pebble in intimate close-ups, while Lubna’s father and other adults tower protectively above them. In a particularly inventive touch, Amir’s shadow appears as a pomegranate tree; when he receives Lubna’s gift, it bursts into color in a magical expression of gratitude. The story addresses a difficult subject but stays focused on hope. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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How to Walk an Ant

Cindy Derby. Roaring Brook, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-250-16262-5

The narrator of this off-the-wall guide is a girl named Amariyah, who has a jumble of ink lines for hair and an unshakeable belief in her expertise as an ant walker. She offers nine steps to help readers replicate her success, although her approach isn’t without hiccups: when she coaxes an ant onto a leash (“Tie the smallest bow in the universe then secure the leash between the ant’s thorax and head”), the insect looks dubious about the whole enterprise, and Amariyah unwisely commits herself to walking an entire hungry colony (“repeat steps two through seven three thousand and twenty-eight times”). Everything comes to a screeching, tangled halt when she collides with a peer who has styled herself as a ladybug walker—a scene rendered as a glorious mess of strings, ants, ladybugs and splotches of red and green—but a friendship is forged over a solemnly staged bug funeral and ice cream cones (“Celebrate when you reach your goal”). Derby, making a highly original debut, offers sly comic timing and deadpan prose that feel right at home with her scratchily inked, goth-vibed art style. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Bach to the Rescue!!! How a Rich Dude Who Couldn’t Sleep Inspired the Greatest Music Ever

om Angleberger, illus. by Elio. Abrams, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3164-8

Angleberger (the Origami Yoda series) takes more than a few liberties with this playful account of how Johann Sebastian Bach may have come to compose the Goldberg Variations, one of his most well-known works for harpsichord. “Once upon a time, there was a Rich Dude who couldn’t sleep,” the story begins. When insomnia strikes, the Rich Dude wakes up his personal harpsichord player, Goldberg (and the rest of the village, which becomes tired and tetchy), but none of Goldberg’s compositions satisfy him. Then Bach arrives with the gusto of a stage magician—“I showed up! (Don’t I look nice? That’s my best wig!).” Bach soon composes “the Greatest Music Ever Written Ever” for Goldberg, the Rich Dude sleeps, and Goldberg is lauded by the villagers. Elio (Monster Mayhem) illustrates in exuberant cartoons, with broad, boldly outlined characters carrying exaggerated expressions. In an author’s note, Angleberger describes the solace the Goldberg Variations provide him; endpapers feature musical notations from the work. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Honey & Leon Take the High Road

Alan Cumming, illus. by Grant Shaffer. Random House, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-399-55800-9

Quintessential New York dogs Honey and Leon are back for another adventure, this time tailing their travel-happy parents Cummings and Shaffer (The Adventures of Honey & Leon) to Scotland. The dogs concoct elaborate disguises to avoid detection (Leon picks jaunty hats; Honey favors a vintage Hollywood look), but the dads aren’t fooled at all: “They understand that dogs are only really happy when they’re protecting their humans.” Arriving on the island of Barra, Honey has a fling with a dashing collie (“I know yer no’ here for long, so let me show you ma island tomorrow!”), leaving little Leon to keep watch over their parents. But plot is really beside the point: this is a celebration of panache and leading one’s best life, whether canine or human. Shaffer’s watercolors have the unbridled optimism of travel posters and fashion illustrations: a scene of London at night is washed in gossamer blues and greens, Edinburgh is portrayed as a nonstop pink-hued carnival, and everyone is balletically long limbed and interestingly dressed. An effervescent offering. Ages 3–7. Agent: Luke Janklow, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Bark in the Park! Poems for Dog Lovers

Avery Corman, illus. by Hyewon Yum. Orchard, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-338-11839-1

Corman, the author of adult novels including Kramer vs. Kramer, makes his picture-book debut with this urban dog field guide comprising short poems—some only two lines—that salute the 38 breeds a child and parent encounter on a walk through the city (mixed pups get a shout-out on the final page). The canines are as varied and cosmopolitan as their human counterparts—a street-savvy, mostly gregarious community in its own right. Corman’s rhymes could at times use more wit and metrical crackle, but they convey details about the breeds with affectionate good humor. Of one hound, he writes, “Whatever you lose, you’d better believe it,/ The Labrador Retriever is sure to retrieve it.” A few spreads help readers distinguish among similar breeds—the greyhound and the saluki, for example, appear in abutting pages. Lively art by Yum (Someday, Narwhal) is the real star, exuding spontaneity and distilled, telling detail. She portrays a leaping Jack Russell terrier and an elegant Weimaraner with the same aplomb, capturing their essential, common dogginess: self-possessed but companionable, and happy to be alive. Ages 3–5. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Tomorrow Most Likely

Dave Eggers, illus. by Lane Smith. Chronicle, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4521-7278-1

On the title page of this meditation by Eggers (Her Right Foot), a child is seen lying in bed, hands folded expectantly. Eggers makes a small, safe promise: “Tomorrow most likely/ there will be a sky./ And chances are it will be blue.” Line by line, the possibilities grow as Smith (Grandpa Green) shows the boy, a child of color, waking, finding breakfast, and exploring city streets in a canary-yellow fedora. Spreads and panel sequences offer a kaleidoscope of sprightly colors and textures: thick paint-stroke layers, sponging, bits of collage. The soothing repetition of “tomorrow most likely” provides an ostinato for quirky, tongue-in-cheek observations (“There will be a squirrel/ And chances are his name is Stu”). The litany ends with an affirmation: “Tomorrow most likely/ will be a great day/ because you are in it.” Occasionally, Eggers’s vision of childhood experiences seems driven more by rhyme scheme than close observation (“You’ll hear something odd..../ You’ll meet Cousin Todd”). Books about outside exploration in the countryside abound. Here, the urban setting gives city kids a poem that belongs to them. Ages 3–5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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100 Ways to Be Thankful

Lisa M. Gerry. National Geographic Kids, $9.99 paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-4263-3275-3

In a compact handbook, Gerry offers 100 ideas for ways that readers might explore and express gratitude. The suggestions range from specific actions (“Keep a gratitude journal” and “Marvel at a rainbow”) to those more philosophical in nature (“Get to know your unique point of view”). For many of the items, Gerry provides additional context and informative sidebars. For “catch (and release) fireflies,” she describes the chemical process that makes fireflies glow. Elsewhere, Gerry profiles people who have put many of the suggestions into practice. Bright photographs of kids and animals enliven the presentation while suggesting that there is wonder to be found in everyday experiences. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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I Can Be Kind

Heather Lester, illus. by Amanda Appiarius. For Good Media, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-9992621-3-9

A sensitive girl named Alice describes what she likes (horses, her bike, “the sound snow makes when you step on it”) and dislikes (roosters that chase her, rising early). Most of all, she doesn’t like it when bad things happen. Her diverse family members offer tips for how she might improve the world, including being kind and brave, and learning from the past and from others. Putting the ideas into action, she stands up to bullies, contributes to a bake sale, and visits a museum, where she views a drawing of black activists carrying protest signs (discussed in back matter). Appiarius illustrates in a straightforward art style, with characters who communicate through clear expressions and dialogue balloons. Lester provides an authentic missive about choosing kindness and making personal connections. Proceeds from book sales go to charities started by kids. Ages 5–6. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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