The ruling kangaroos of Rooville have successfully practiced apartheid…until they try to ban Noodlephant’s beloved pasta parties.
“Once there was an elephant who loved noodles. She loved noodles so much that all her friends called her Noodlephant.” This quirky, imaginative tale includes a playfulness in both text and artwork, balancing its serious themes. From the beginning, readers learn that the bossy kangaroos have “deep pockets” and have privileges over all the other animals. These animals know the laws are unfair, but they don’t want to be thrown into the Zoo. They find ways to enjoy life despite being restricted from the beach, the Butterfly Garden, and law-making. One day, a particularly nasty, violent kangaroo destroys Noodlephant’s recent purchase of pasta ingredients and declares that noodle-eating is illegal for all but kangaroos. In a moment of literal navel-gazing, Noodlephant is inspired to build a magical machine that turns anything into pasta. Readers follow her through a kangaroo court(!)—including a rudimentary introduction to the nolo contendere plea—to the dreaded Zoo and her subsequent hunger strike. Help from her loyal, clever friends leads finally to a bloodless but pasta-filled revolution. Accessible sentences are peppered with spurts of couplets, wordplay, and culinary vocabulary. The art is perfect: pen-and-ink and colorful washes show numerous, wide-eyed animal citizens, anthropomorphic and, sometimes, laugh-out-loud funny.
“Yes, noodles are for me’s and you’s”…humor cushions timely views.
(Picture book. 4-9)
All day, every day, is a good time for reading about Snail and Worm.
Geisel honoree Kügler returns with her third hilarious early reader in this series about odd-couple pals Snail and Worm. Three stories, “Best Day Ever,” “The Spooky Cave,” and “A Bedtime Story,” make up the book and deliver laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of affable, daffy Snail’s antics. Worm is a loyal and supportive friend who never condescends to Snail despite misunderstandings and blunders, instead appreciating Snail’s generous, guileless, big heart. And what’s not to appreciate? When Snail declares it’s the “best day ever,” it’s on a day of small personal disasters that are overshadowed by others’ good fortune. When Snail mistakes a turtle in its shell for a spooky cave with a dragon inside, their first thought is to save the turtle Worm mentions. And when Worm offers to tell a bedtime story about Snail, Snail frets about being lonely without Worm in the story, too. Expressive watercolor-and-ink illustrations make particularly great use of Snail’s eyestalks and Worm’s coiling body to ratchet up the humor and heart of every single scene. “I like everything you do,” the friends affirm to each other at book’s end, a sentiment readers will share about Kügler’s work.
Run (faster than Snail ever could) to get a copy of this winning early reader.
(Early reader. 5-8)
A young boy who happens to be undead reveals himself as a vegetarian to parents who are not about to stop eating people parts.
Mo, a greenish, bespectacled kid, has an idea to share his love of the veggies he grows in secret: He’ll make a bloody-looking gazpacho, one that might fool mom and dad into appreciating tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, and cilantro. The gambit fails. But even if the rotting folks can’t accept heaps of vegetables in their diet, they can learn to honor their son’s dietary desires. That’s an admirable message, but what really creeps up on readers is the Laceras’ deep sense of fun. Gravestone puns are to be expected, but to sneak in a reference to Jonathan Saffron Gore hits all the right geek buttons, at least for the kind of parent who’d gravitate to a zombie-themed picture book. And while understated, the family’s effortless use of occasional Spanish phrases (“arm-panadas”!) in a primarily English-speaking household feels true. The Spanish-language version (translated by Yanitzia Canetti) has its own specific jokes and reads just as smart and funny. The artwork throughout manages to make zombie-grown produce look appealing.
Tasty and homegrown, this hits a strange and specific trifecta: a lightly bilingual book that feels inclusive not only for Latinx kids, but also for different eaters and for those who aren’t afraid of gory, monster-themed humor.
(Picture book. 4-7)
A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.
Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.
Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.
(Picture book. 4-8)
This meta–early reader begins (between the end pages and the title page) with the famous duo Elephant and Piggie expressing excitement about reading a book about a pig and an elephant who happen to be best friends, just like them.
Piggie holds a copy of Harold & Hog Pretend for Real!—which is identical to the book readers are holding, leading them to believe that the characters are reading the same book. Piggie and elephant Gerald then open the cover of the book just as elephant Harold and Hog push it open from the inside, and the story seamlessly shifts to the latter pair’s perspective. Harold and Hog—illustrated with depth and fairly realistically, compared to the cartoonlike Piggie and Gerald—are excited to see the famous duo, and Harold suggests they pretend to be them. Harold then produces round, wire-rimmed glasses for himself and a cartoon pig’s snout for Hog so that they can pretend “for real.” Unfortunately, Hog is “too CAREFUL to be Piggie,” and Harold is “too CAREFREE to be Gerald!” The question then arises: Can Harold and Hog’s friendship survive this game? Building on the popular Elephant and Piggie books and with the frame story contributed by Mo Willems, Santat creates yet another early reader that is at once playful, self-aware, and perceptive in its exploration of the differences of personalities and the complications (or simplicities) of friendship.
A hoot for readers who already know Elephant and Piggie
. (Early reader. 5-8)
Kindness is revealed to be the best answer to embarrassment and anger in this funny take on peeing in your pants.
“Somebody better come clean about my wet pants.” Reuben, a bear in a scouting uniform, interrogates the whole forest troop to determine who wet his pants. He even holds the doughnuts hostage until he can flush out the guilty party and get what he wants: justice and dry pants. The animals of Troop 73, all blushing with blame (or perhaps embarrassment for their friend?), are dressed in khakis and kerchiefs and sit around a warm campfire. “I’ll get to the bottom of my wet pants if it’s the last thing I do!” yells Reuben. The illustrations are as insistent as Reuben. OHora’s pink, brown, and green–dominated color scheme gives the pages an indie vibe; they’re full of cool things that catch the eye: a potable-water pump, the string-tied doughnut box, and plenty of perfect mushrooms. The scout badges—on both the uniforms and the endpapers—delight in their quirky charm. But this is more than a potty book for scouts. With each accusation, it becomes clear that Reuben will do anything to avoid blame—a character trait familiar to readers, no doubt. Luckily for Reuben, his empathetic friends treat him with kindness, and forgiveness ultimately leaks from the pages.
It is not an accident that there is more here than meets the eye.
(Picture book. 5-8)
Sea creatures fortified by pastries work together to clean up their home.
“Under the sea, where sunlight touches sand,” aquatic animals live mostly in peace. “Scallop does loop-de-loops,” “Octopus hides in a coconut,” “The venomous Lionfish does whatever she pleases,” and “Crab bakes cakes.” Each full-page spread is a delight of detail, with adorable, expressive creatures that kids can pore over at length. The bright colors suddenly darken, though, when “one night, there’s a BIG SPLASH!” and a barge dumps a load of trash into their habitat. The animals freeze, horrified, but Crab gathers its fortitude and bakes yet another cake. The sea creatures collect as a community, eating and discussing what to do next, and they come up with a plan to send the trash back to the humans. Each animal does what it can to help (each with its own distinctive, vigorous verb), and soon life under the sea is back to normal. The tone shifts dramatically in this surprising story, from light and fun to serious and upsetting, gently but clearly showing children how everyone has unique skills and interests that they can use in support of community or a common goal. Just baking a cake might seem frivolous, but readers come away with the idea that nourishing and supporting one another is the only way to change the world.
A kid-friendly yet profound confection.
(Picture book. 4-8)