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Perfect animal shenanigans

Animals playing dress-up? A swan dancing ballet? Like the incorrigible star of Z Is for Moose, the creatures in these four new picture books behave in unexpected (and often hilarious) ways.

Marianne Dubuc Animal Masquerade coverMarianne Dubuc’s witty pencil-crayon illustrations in Animal Masquerade show fifty-three animals heading for a costume party, each disguised as the next animal in line. Of course, it’s funny to see a mouse disguised as a flamingo, a flamingo disguised as a giraffe, and a giraffe disguised as a millipede. But just when you think you’ve gotten the idea, the pattern breaks with a wacky costume (a chocolate cake?) or a tongue-in-cheek aside. (2–5 years)

Keiko Kasza Silly Goose's Big Story coverKeiko Kasza humorously depicts real-life preschool conflict in Silly Goose’s Big Story. Goose has great ideas for imaginary play with Porcupine, Beaver, and Squirrel, but he always casts himself as hero. While the friends argue over the matter, a wolf sneaks up on them. Luckily, Goose uses his storytelling ability to convince the wolf there’s a wolf-eating monster on the prowl. His friends provide the necessary effects to give Goose’s wild story credibility, proving that they, too, can be heroes. (2–5 years)

Allegra Kent Ballerina Swan coverBallerina Allegra Kent’s Ballerina Swan tells a satisfying success story of an unlikely dancer. Sophie the swan, fascinated by the ballet studio near her pond, is eventually welcomed into class. While some things come easily to Sophie, others do not — a good reminder for all young learners. Her hard work is rewarded with a part in Swan Lake. Emily Arnold McCully’s illustrations explore both the comedic possibilities of a swan doing ballet and the grace of her lofty grand jeté. (3–6 years)

Meg McKinlay No Bears coverElla, protagonist of Meg McKinlay’s No Bears, is writing her own story. A proper story, she feels, should have a princess, a monster, and a fairy godmother — but no bears, since she’s tired of the way “every time you read a book, it’s just BEARS BEARS BEARS.” However, Leila Rudge’s droll digital illustrations reveal a well-mannered bear, who comes to the rescue at the denouement of Ella’s tale. Fairy-tale cameos and a smart meta-narrative structure will entice readers to pore over every page. (3–6 years)

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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