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Stuff and nonsense

These new picture books put silly spins on their topics, with playful pigs, wily walruses, mischievous mice, hat-stealing creatures (not, this time, a fish) — and antic adventures for all. 

lobel_playful pigsIn Anita Lobel’s Playful Pigs from A to Z, twenty-six pigs who are exploring the countryside find a field of “magical surprises”: brightly colored, freestanding letters of the alphabet. The entire alphabet, set in a distinctive condensed typeface, runs along the top and bottom borders of the pages while each pig interacts happily with a single tall, thin letterform. Lobel uses a name-verb-letter structure (“Amanda Pig admired an A. Billy Pig balanced on a B”), with rolling hills below and plenty of white space behind the pig and letter. This playful treatment creates a humorous, easygoing book that should relieve any anxiety about learning the alphabet. (Knopf, 3–6 years) 

ruzzier_twomiceUsing only two-word phrases (“One house / Two mice / Three cookies”) and a simple repeating number pattern (one, two, three; three, two, one; one, two, three), Two Mice by Sergio Ruzzier creates a fast-paced adventure for listeners and new readers alike. Before long the mice venture out to sea: “Three boats / Two oars / One rower.” The situation grows dire — “Three rocks / Two holes / One shipwreck” — and they must work together as a team in order to get back home. Expressive, mildly mischievous illustrations in soft colors develop details and drama that the words leave out, and the book’s creative focus on pattern in plot allows readers’ imaginations to play a strong role. (Clarion, 3–6 years)

kasza_findersSquirrel, needing a reminder, sets his red hat over the spot where he buried an acorn. The wind messes with his plan, blowing the hat up a tree to make “a terrific nest!” for the bird who finds it — “Finders, keepers.” Not for long: the hat next becomes an ant’s boat, then a clown nose for a bear, until a giant sneeze lands the hat right back where it started. In Finders Keepers, Keiko Kasza creates a storytime winner, with lots of preschool-friendly humor in the simple-to-follow text. The intensely colored animals and objects stand out against the white of the pages, making the action easy for viewers to see. (Putnam, 2–5 years)

savage_whereswalruspenguinOne rainy day, wily zoo-dweller Walrus — now with a penguin sidekick! — hops on the subway for a madcap adventure. Where’s Walrus? And Penguin? follows the same format as Walrus’s previous wordless search-and-find adventure, Where’s Walrus? — and why not? With solid shapes, strong lines, and effectively placed color, author-illustrator Stephen Savage’s cleanly designed illustrations help Walrus and Penguin hide in plain sight: riding (as mother and baby) on the subway, working at a newsstand, feeding pigeons in the park, and performing at the opera, with the always-one-step-behind zookeeper in hot pursuit. A chance meeting with an attractive walrus-shaped nurse sets Walrus on a new course — this time for a happily-ever-after ending at the zoo. (Scholastic, 2–5 years)

From the September 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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