A return to the wild, Seussian world of Helms (Outside, Inside, 2015) with a silhouette-guessing game featuring a refrain that will have youngsters chiming in.
Someone new has arrived in Ponderville (population 19). Two of the town’s tiny, winged residents find a gift from the newcomer, AlphaBetty, to their friend Birdie (who appeared in Helms’ last book). It’s a silhouette portrait, and the pair decide to see if they can find out who it is—“who’s new.” They compare the picture to the silhouette of a real-life creature, asking readers the refrain, “Is this Who’s New?” That first character is quickly revealed to be Mumu, one of Ponderville’s residents. Mumu joins the two small creatures as they repeat the game, and they soon add wobbly-looking creature Orand to the quest. Readers of Outside, Inside will recognize the next character: it’s Birdie, the recipient of the gift, who joins the search. The team approaches a wall where the rest of Ponderville’s residents sit, and they’re all shown in silhouette to give readers a chance to compare them to the gift. Although younger readers may struggle to sound out all the strange names (such as “Verdge,” “Mariochi,” and “Poxi”), they’re fun enough to say that they’re likely to giggle. The characters despair of ever finding the new resident until Hap points out a new house and a matching silhouette appears in the door under the repeated refrain. Young readers can then sort through the strange characters’ celebratory phrases, including a grouchy “HUMPH.” Overall, the text in this book is a little denser than in Helms’ previous offering, but the large-sized words, set aside in boxes, and the repeating vocabulary will be encouraging to newly independent readers. The illustrations, though, are the true draw here, and the fun black silhouettes are marvelously offset by their colorful matches. The friendly looking characters are all wonderfully weird, and Helms’ imaginative landscape will be appealing enough for youngsters that they’ll want to visit it over and over again.
A fun, well-illustrated book for newly independent readers to enjoy on their own or for lap readers to enjoy with a grown-up.