Preschool is all about gaining independence, and preschoolers aren’t afraid to let you know it. The protagonists of these new picture books test boundaries, learn big-kid tasks, and even begin to help others — all familiar experiences for preschoolers acquiring agency.
The ten little rabbit siblings from Anita Lobel’s 10 Hungry Rabbits are back in Taking Care of Mama Rabbit. Mama Rabbit is sick and needs care; one at a time, the little rabbits bring her small palliative items: a handkerchief, a cup of hot chocolate, a flower, a book. As the gifts accumulate and the pages turn, Mama looks progressively better, until she hops out of bed to watch the show the kids put on. Vibrant colors send a message of cheer and optimism, and the small trim size is just right for the intimate story. (Knopf, 2–5 years)
Little Naomi, Little Chick by Avirama Golan cleverly tells two stories. Left-hand pages describe preschooler Naomi’s typical day — playing with friends, listening to stories, finger-painting, swinging at the playground. On wordless right-hand pages, Little Chick’s day unfolds in comical crayon and pencil illustrations. The chick and its farmyard friends have small adventures that loosely parallel Naomi’s experiences: while she’s eating lunch, for example, Little Chick and a duck tug worms out of the ground for their own midday snack. Raaya Karas’s illustrations are full of humor and warmth; several visual elements gracefully unite these two worlds of play. (Eerdmans, 2–5 years)
In Cub’s Big World by Sarah L. Thomson, a polar bear cub’s first venture outside the cave she shares with her mother introduces her to a dazzling arctic landscape. When a tumble down a hill separates parent and child, Cub must use what she knows to find Mom again. Joe Cepeda’s oil and acrylic paintings are textured and luminous, using perspective to evoke both the vastness of the world and the comforting intimacy of the parent-child relationship. Cub’s independence is quietly encouraged, tempered by Mom’s promise that “the world is big. I’ll be close by till you’re big, too.” (Harcourt, 2–5 years)
A young boy wants to take his little French bulldog Santiago for a walk in Angela Dominguez’s Santiago Stays. Santiago refuses all enticements — his favorite sweater, a treat, even a hamburger. Until this point the pair has been foregrounded against white space, but the next spread reveals the setting — a room with a crib in the corner. When the boy yells in frustration (“SANTIAGO!”), a plaintive “Waaaaaaaaaaa!” floats from the crib, and the reason for Santiago’s stubbornness is revealed: he is watching over the baby. Together the pair looks after the boy’s new sibling. The warm palette of the mixed-media illustrations is perfect for this affection-filled family story. (Abrams/Abrams Appleseed, 2–5 years)
From the February 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.