A spunky bodega-dwelling kitty describes the ins and outs of a bustling neighborhood market.
Life for Chip the bodega cat is full of interesting new friends, great food, hard work, and a lot of fun. A bodega, Chip explains, is a “store that sells a little bit of everything you could need!” From tasty snacks to laundry detergent, the bodega has you covered 24 hours a day. The feline narrator details the rhythm of the day, which includes working diligently through the early-morning deliveries, the busy breakfast rush, the lunch crowd, and the lively after-school hours. Chip helps out around the store, at least in theory, by counting up inventory and lending a paw at the cash register. Of course, the friendly feline is never too busy for a round of hide-and-seek with its many “adoring fans,” the neighborhood kids. Characters depicted in the book represent many cultures and ethnicities, including Chip’s Latinx human family, headed by Papi, who’s from the Dominican Republic. Chin’s vibrant illustrations are touched with a graffiti-artist vibe and bring the world of the bodega to life with engaging full-color spreads. Details will feel perfectly executed to those familiar with bodegas already and will quickly transport those who haven’t yet had the pleasure. Readers’ mouths will water at the delicious-looking food prepared in the bodega’s kitchen.
This cute cat seamlessly works an education on bodegas into a playful story.
(Picture book. 6-10)
This picture book, a Canadian import originally published in Norway, tells the story of Paws, a dog, and Edward, a child, who have shared a good life together.
Paws is old and prefers to spend his days sleeping and dreaming, mostly about rabbits, while Edward, his beloved human, cuddles close and reads books. When Edward invites Paws for a walk, Paws goes because, he thinks, “Edward could use some fresh air.” The two are inseparable until the inevitable occurs and Paws falls into a sleep “without dreams.” Edward is so, so sad, but when he finally falls asleep (in the park, on the bench Paws used to lie on) he dreams—of Paws, tail wagging, happy—and readers will be uplifted, understanding that Edward’s love for Paws cannot be erased by death. Johnsen’s warmly hued illustrations give Paws such a large presence that he often spills out over the boundaries of the page—a visual manifestation of the story’s theme of love unconstrained by the boundary of death. Each illustration is a full-bleed double-page spread, a choice that emphasizes expansiveness. Edward’s skin is shown as a different shade on each page, a device that allows Edward to approach universality while visually highlighting, once again, the theme of limitlessness.
A truly brilliant contribution to the genre and a must for any child who has lost a beloved pet.
(Picture book. 4-8)
In the spirit of Aesop, the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen winner weaves an animal fable set in the grasslands.
Seven creatures are desperate for relief from the sweltering sun. After they argue and vie for a spot under the single tree, the elephant muscles his way underneath. The sight of the giant trying to cool off under several tiny leaves is so hilarious the animals burst into laughter. Their attention is diverted by the sight of a child walking by in his father’s shadow. In a brilliant design feature, the next six pages are cut to gradually increase in width, moving from 3 ½ inches to 10 inches, as each creature, starting with the lynx, crosses the gutter to offer shade to smaller beings. Yu cleverly contrasts a lineup of wilting figures rendered in pencil on the verso with smiling, colorful, cut-paper versions on subsequent rectos. Before the page turns, viewers can spot a silhouetted portion of the next animal’s shadow, setting up a guessing game. Ultimately, a natural solution offers coolness for all. Touches of internal rhyme, alliteration, foreshadowing, and descriptive specificity elevate the telling: “Hens doze in the dusty shade of haystacks, and the melon farmer fans himself, under a canopy.” As in fables of yesteryear, Cao holds a mirror to selfishness as well as to an individual’s ability to transcend that tendency.
Children will return often to enjoy the interactive opportunities and the harmony that prevails.
(Picture book. 3-6)
Following The Outlaw (2018), this second title of a trilogy offers a new character to ponder.
Various elements link this to the first book, such as the pacing; limited palette, with an abundance of gray, green, and black; incorporation of newspaper fragments and 19th-century fabric patterns. Nevertheless, such knowledge is not necessary for comprehension. Readers first see the back of the protagonist—a figure rendered in watercolor that bleeds into the scene, masking identity. The page turn reveals a female of indeterminate race with long black braids. Vo employs color, plot twists, and dramatically changing perspectives to elicit surprise and maintain suspense. While moving through the forest, Annie discovers an orange fox, trapped and suffering. She releases the animal and binds its wound but resolves not to tame it. Her emotional position is underscored by her physical one. Seen from the fox’s perspective, Annie appears as tall and unapproachable as the parallel tree trunks disappearing off the page. The creature accompanies the ranger on her journey; when a bear attacks and Annie is knocked unconscious, she is cared for by a mysterious woman, dressed in orange, casting the shadow of a fox. The ranger must then come to terms with her stubborn stance on independence in the face of friendship’s rewards.
A restrained text fuses with visually arresting and enigmatic interactions to open a welcoming space for contemplation.
(Picture book. 4-7)
A young girl must figure out a way to help a sharp-toothed and fearsome creature many times her size.
Crocodiles come from all over the jungle to see the child they call Little Doctor, who attends to a variety of ailments: splinters, sprains, and self-esteem issues. In return for her ministrations they regale the girl with stories of adventure and fearless beasts. Then an enormous crocodile known as Big Mean appears at the girl’s door, and it takes some patience and an accidental trip inside Big Mean’s jaws to diagnose the problem. Little Doctor frees four hatchlings (carried gently inside Big Mean’s mouth) tangled and trapped by a plastic beverage yoke. Gilmore’s crocodiles, both large and small, are reptilian and sly, even dangerous-looking, accentuating the child’s devotion to these far-from-cuddly creatures. The girl is light-skinned, slim, determined, and serious. Her house in the jungle is filled with crocodile-themed art, including diagrams of the crocodilian life cycle and anatomy, and tools of the doctor’s trade—clipboards, a reflex hammer. The art is angular and detailed, with fine lines and subtle colors. The use of the word “fearless” instead of “fearsome” to describe the crocodiles emphasizes the courage it takes both humans and wild creatures to trust. Big Mean repays with a tale of “great daring and determination”—a story about the Little Doctor herself.
Preschoolers can follow a little brown mouse on its traveling adventures in this engaging color concept book.
As the book starts, a little mouse can be seen packing up her equally itty-bitty suitcase. Rhyming text with a wonderful read-aloud rhythm introduces readers to the little mouse’s street: “Red house / Blue house / Green house / Tree house! / See the tiny mouse / in her little brown house?” Clean-lined, colorful illustrations in Gómez’s signature style lead readers along: into a flower-filled garden; on a ride on a red city bus; in a potted windowsill plant attended by a child; on the curb where a group of people wait to cross a street; in an underwater scene with “one gigantic whale!”; and on a jolly ride that employs a string of vehicles. The little mouse is not mentioned again, making it easy for readers to forget it as they get caught up in the myriad delightful details of each illustration. No problem there. The book ends with “and did you spot that mouse?” This should send children back to the beginning, this time in earnest search of the little mouse and her itty-bitty suitcase. Should children need further enticement to read the book again, travel patches on the endpapers invite readers to match them to the relevant part in the story. The people depicted are diverse both racially as well as in physical ability.
A half-hatched penguin peers out from his cracked-open egg on the title page, sharing his first view of the world with readers on the following double-page spread. The shell’s hole faces upward, so Gilbert sees only sky. “The moon glowed. The stars sparkled. The birds wheeled.” Gilbert’s enamored. He needs to fly. But…he’s a penguin. “[T]he storm petrels, the shearwaters, and the wandering albatross” soar “Up Up Up,” those three words marching upward on the page. Gilbert, in contrast, flaps, waddles, slips, spins, and tumbles. The harder he tries, the more he falls, and the more renditions of him appear, emphasizing his failure—even 19 at once. He looks like he’s dancing across the spread, but dancing isn’t his goal. Family is unhelpful: “Give it up, Gilbert,” and, “You’re a penguin, not a goose,” Uncle Crabstack and Aunt Anchovy say quellingly. Gilbert is undeterred. Trudging up a rocky, snowy height, he watches the albatross soar away “over the sparkling ocean.” He jumps to follow—and inadvertently finds his heart’s desire: the penguin version of flying, which is underwater and, it turns out, equally glorious. With masterful composition and scale changes, Bentley creates a white and gently patterned icy world where flying birds wing in elegance both near and far. He renders Gilbert’s fluffiness brilliantly in watercolor and pencil—Gilbert appears soft, not wet—while giving adult penguins sleek edges and flying birds a fine delicacy.
This wordless story details the developing friendship between a homeless dog and a kind, patient young woman.
The scruffy dog has floppy ears and long, reddish hair, and the light-skinned woman has long hair of the same auburn shade. The story is set in a modern city and a nearby park with a huge tree and a wooden bench that serves as the only shelter for the dog at night. When the woman comes to read on the bench, she spots the shy dog, gradually befriending the appealing canine over several visits by playing with a tennis ball. One night the dog follows the woman to her apartment building, waiting outside in the rain for her to reappear even as the woman goes back to the park in the pelting rain to search for the dog. In an emotionally satisfying reunion they find each other outside the apartment, and the woman takes the dog into her home. The heartwarming conclusion shows the dog sleeping on the end of the woman’s bed as morning sunlight streams in the windows. Skillfully composed illustrations in a muted palette alternate between small panels in rows and full-page spreads with dramatic effects in mood and lighting. The narrative is conveyed so capably through the compelling illustrations that not a word is needed.
A touching tale about the strong emotional connection between dog and human.
(Picture book. 4-8)
Befriending someone made of snow holds certain risks.
Heading home to his grandmother, Little Mole finds a small snowball. He greets it, pushes it along so it grows far taller than him, and tells it a secret: “ ‘I just moved here. I don’t have any friends.’ / The snowball listened quietly.” He wants to bring this new friend home with him on the public bus, but these buses are for animals, not snow, and each driver nixes the idea. What if Little Mole shapes the snow into a bear? Gives it a snow-backpack or his own hat? Finally aboard a warm bus with his friend, Little Mole dozes off. When he wakens, the worst has happened. Most readers will understand why the snow-friend’s gone, but Little Mole doesn’t, and a great sadness ensues. Kim’s textual refrains (“Little Mole had a brilliant idea”; “He and his friend waited patiently”) are gently reassuring. The illustrations—done in colored pencil, pastel, and pen—are quiet and spare, showing snowy wilderness expanses with only a few trees and bus-stop signs. White snow blends softly into blue skies, with pale yellow used for warmth. Everything seems headed to the saddest possible ending, for how could a melted friend return? But after Little Mole’s sleepless night, the friend does return—or its likeness does—sitting across a snowy field, waiting. Did it come from magic or Grandma? Is there a difference?
Stillness, tenderness, and hope are the essence of this quiet gem.
(Picture book. 4-7)
Princess Puffybottom’s purrrrfect life is spoiled by a puppy named Darryl.
Fluffy, black kitty Princess Puffybottom’s two female “subjects” pamper her appropriately. They feed her yummy meals (even if they sometimes need reminding) and take care of “delicate matters” (litterbox, you know). Princess Puffybottom indulges their whims, the petting and the play, until they surprise her with Darryl, a dog! “He was horrible. He was disgusting. He was an animal!” Illustrating this in sequential vignettes, Darryl eats a sock, vomits it up, and eats it again. The princess tries everything from hypnosis to sabotage to rid herself of Darryl, but nothing works. Her subjects notice nothing of her shenanigans—they seem preoccupied with other matters. Eventually familiarity does its work. Yes, Darryl’s annoying, but Princess Puffybottom finds he has uses (such as liberating tasty morsels from the trash), and he does worship her, so life’s “good again. At least her subjects wouldn’t be bringing home any more surprises.” Readers, however, will have noticed that what her two subjects—a black woman and an Asian woman—have been occupied with in the background are preparations for a baby. Nielsen’s tale and Mueller’s digitally created pooch and puss pair perfectly, the princess acting as a nice stand-in for a pampered first child. The light touch of humor and twist at the end make this a must for storytime collections.
Princess and Darryl need a sequel.
(Picture book. 3-8)