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Sam, the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World

Mo Willems. Disney-Hyperion, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-368-00214-1

Twelve years after Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, Willems brings back Leonardo the monster and Sam, the boy who’s afraid of everything (except Leo). Sam grabs the spotlight in this sequel, but he has competition: after running into a girl named Kerry and her monster pal, Frankenthaler, both of the young humans start screaming, terrified of each other. Annoyed, the monsters ditch the kids. “Figure it out,” says Leonardo, strolling off the page with Frankenthaler. And they do: Kerry and Sam’s timidity gives way to appreciating their differences and similarities—including a mischievous streak. Visually and narratively, this story is a lovely bookend to Leonardo; Willems makes use of the same sketchy cartooning, drab palette, distinctive fonts, and expanses of open space as he demonstrates that starting a new friendship—scary as it might seem—is worth it. Ages 3–5. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Papillon Goes to the Vet

A.N. Kang. Disney-Hyperion, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4847-2881-9

Papillon, a cat so fluffy he can float, gets stuck with the hiccups after swallowing a catnip toy while playing catch with his friend, the red bird he met in the previous book. Worse, the toy’s weight keeps Papillon grounded, so his human keeper, Miss Tilly, whisks him off to the vet, where he’s dejected—until an effective belch sets things right and lets Papillon show off his airborne dance moves for his fellow feline patients. Kang’s mixed-media illustrations have a lightness to match both the understated storytelling and the weightlessness of her hero. As Papillon rides home from the vet’s office in the basket of Miss Tilly’s bicycle—his paws outstretched, eyes closed in delight, and a blankie cape trailing behind him—it’s clear that he’s living his best life. Ages 3–5. Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Animal Camouflage: Search and Find

Sam Hutchinson, illus. by Sarah Dennis. Princeton Architectural Press, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-61689-626-3

Gorgeous cut-paper illustrations introduce 77 animals—11 each in seven regions (five continents, plus Australasia and polar areas). An initial spread for each region offers delicate silhouettes of and details about each animal; after a page turn, the same animals are hidden within dense cut-paper landscapes: beady-eyed foxes blend into the underbrush of a European forest as the outstretched wings of barn owls entwine with spindly tree branches. Though the details Hutchinson provides are basic (“Armadillos are the only mammal to have a shell”), readers will come away with plenty of animal trivia, and Dennis’s intricate cut-paper images are showstoppers. Ages 6–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Where’s the Ballerina?

Anna Claybourne, illus. by Abigail Goh. Kane Miller, $14.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-61067-515-4

Young dancers are a natural audience for this introduction to 10 ballets, in which synopses of the stories alternate with wordless scenes where readers must locate various characters. Goh’s dainty illustrations reflect the grace of the performers and the diverse settings, from the dusty hills of 17th-century Barcelona for “Don Quixote” to the sugary enchantments of the Land of Sweets in “The Nutcracker.” Several ballets are tragedies, though, and Claybourne doesn’t tiptoe around the gory details. “Angry about the false love between Solor and Gamzatti, the gods destroy the temple and everyone in it,” concludes “La Bayadère,” set in ancient India. “Solor and Nikiya are together again in death.” Ages 5–9. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Look for Ladybug in Plant City

Katherina Manolessou. Frances Lincoln, $19.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-78603-029-0

After Daisy the rabbit’s pet ladybug goes missing, she enlists the help of Basil, a reptilian detective. Over 11 scenes, readers follow along as the two visit a school, train station, fair, and other locations that are home to small animals and insects. The easy-to-follow narrative keeps readers connected to the unfolding mystery while introducing other items to locate (“Basil explored the museum and discovered twelve masked burglars, a painting of a pineapple, and a green spoon, but he did not find Ladybug”). Manolessou stuffs her brightly colored cartoons with mini-dramas and humorous details to pique readers’ interest, creating a full sense of Daisy and Basil’s miniature world. Ages 5–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Find Me: A Hide-and-Seek Book

Anders Arhoj. Chronicle, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4521-6254-6

Children can join in two friends’ game of hide-and-seek in this quirky, near-wordless book from Danish designer Arhoj. The bigheaded creatures have doglike snouts and look a bit like walking table-tennis paddles; their distinctive hats help readers find them, but they change color on each spread, throwing a little mischief into the mix. Their world is a candy-colored land of similarly cute monsterlike beings; moving through a bustling neighborhood, hospital, and nighttime forest (among other locations) almost creates the sense of perusing the landscape of a digital game. The focused scope, adorable graphics, and not-too-crowded scenes make this an appealing pick for seek-and-find newbies. Ages 5–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Thousand Billion Things (and Some Sheep)

Loïc Clément, illus. by Anne Montel. Words & Pictures, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-91027-742-3

A redheaded girl informs readers that she doesn’t like going to sleep: “Of course, you are wondering, why not? Well, let me tell you, it’s a matter of choice!” She then takes readers through various everyday scenes (breakfast, bath time, etc.) as they are asked to locate items hidden in pages filled with delicately drawn clothing, vegetables, sea creatures, and more. The bedtime-hating frame gets a little lost itself, and the girl’s monologue takes some odd turns (“I wonder if all this choice is an eternal delight or an infernal torment,” she remarks, confounded by the options at a bakery), but Montel’s elegant images are a pleasure to pore over. Ages 4–7. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Dinosaur Detective’s Search-and-Find Rescue Mission

Sophie Guerrive. Wide Eyed Editions, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-78603-071-9

Seek-and-find books don’t get much more delightful than this English-language debut from French illustrator Guerrive, in which a blue sauropod locates missing people and animals in 11 scenes. “Dinosaur Detective! One of my students is hiding because he hasn’t done his homework. Can you find him?” asks an irate teacher in a mountain scene featuring dozens of tiny skiers, sheep, shepherds—and giant monsters gnawing on snow-capped peaks. Guerrive channels Martin Handford in dense illustrations packed with surreal details (a planet made up of eyes, a museum crowded with humans, animals, ghosts, and aliens), and finding the missing creatures and objects is satisfyingly challenging. Ages 3–6. (Aug.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the author's last name.

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece

Marc Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker, illus. by LeUyen Pham. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-59643-718-0

A warm tribute to the creative genius and style of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this picture book takes readers through his process of designing and building the famous home Fallingwater, which helped revive his stalled career, in the 1930s. Harshman (One Big Family) and Smucker (Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward) deliver an often lyrical narration of Fallingwater’s progression. From its inspiration in nature to the sweeping, finished house that sits above a waterfall in rural Pennsylvania, the dwelling is “A house like no other,/ where sun can shine,/ where balconies fly,/ where falling water/ is heard from every room.” The spare text and Pham’s energetic illustrations advance the story steadily. Wright drafts a concept design on deadline as nervous assistants look on; later, builders “Pry and dig and lift,/ stone upon stone upon stone./ Choose and fit and stack,/ stone upon stone upon stone.” Earth tones and blue hues evoke the calm grandeur of the finished, futuristic-looking structure as it soars out and over the waterfall. Author and illustrator notes flesh out additional details about the now-conserved public attraction. Ages 7–10. Illustrator’s agent: Linda Pratt, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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That Is My Dream! A Picture Book of Langston Hughes’s “Dream Variation”

Langston Hughes, illus. by Daniel Miyares. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-55017-1

With luminous washes of watercolor and the lyrical language of Hughes’s 1924 poem as his text, Miyares (That Neighbor Kid) presents a resonant vision of an African-American boy who imagines a more just world. Feeling rambunctious (“To fling my arms wide”), the boy boards a bus with his mother and sister to meet his father, a factory worker, for a picnic dinner. As the verse continues—“In some place of the sun/ To whirl and to dance/ Till the white day is done”—Miyares reveals that the boy lives in the segregated South. Unlike the white family who crosses his path, the boy and his family must sit in the back of the bus and drink from the “Colored Only” water fountain. But in the soft beauty of twilight (“Dark like me”), the boy dreams away these false barriers: Miyares shows black and white children together, magically soaring on giant birds, and (more pointedly) drinking from the same stream. As the stars come out, the reverie ends, but it’s clear that the boy has gained a measure of hope and a reaffirmed sense of his identity. All ages. Illustrator’s agency: Studio Goodwin Sturges. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/18/2017 | Details & Permalink

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