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New picture books for young readers

by KAREN MacPHERSON Scripps Howard News Service on April 14, 2013 1:30 AM

Share some of these great new picture books with your young reader:

In “Lucky Ducklings” (Orchard Books/Scholastic, $16.99, ages 3-6), author Eva Moore and artist Nancy Carpenter team up to tell the delightful, true rescue story of a group of ducklings who accidentally fell through a sewer grate in Montauk, N.Y., more than a dozen years ago. While the story will undoubtedly remind picture-book lovers of author/artist Robert McCloskey’s masterpiece, “Make Way for Ducklings,” Moore and Carpenter manage to give their own spin to a duck drama that will have young readers on the edge of their seats. Moore’s text nicely highlights the excitement of the story, while Carpenter’s illustrations have a classic look while still conveying the fluffy charm of the ducklings and their worried mother.


Spectacular photographs and a brief, lyrical text combine to make “The World Is Waiting for You” (National Geographic, $17.95, ages 3-6) an irresistible read. Written by Barbara Kerley and featuring photographs by various National Geographic photographers, this picture book will help inspire young readers to get out and do some hands-on exploring of nature. At the very least, it will remind kids — and adults — to take a moment to savor the bounty of natural beauty in their world.


Preschooler Lily is having a hard day, as she feels grumpy and out of sorts. But Lily’s day gets even harder when, in a fit of pique, she throws her beloved stuffed dog Bobbo up in the air and he lands on top of a school bus that is traveling down the road. Lily is heartbroken until her mother helps her track down Bobbo at the school to which the bus was headed. In “Bobbo Goes to School” (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 3-6), award-winning picture-book author/artist Shirley Hughes tells a story that will grip young readers. They’ll readily identify with Lily’s heartbreak and guilt when she appears to lose Bobbo, and cheer when her stuffed toy is eventually found, none the worse for wear. Hughes’ gouache illustrations are colorful and expressive.


Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld tell a tale about finding your place in the world in “Exclamation Mark” (Scholastic, $17.99, ages 4-7). In this case, however, the one finding his way is an exclamation mark, who “stood out from the very beginning” among the sea of periods that surrounded him. It’s not until the exclamation mark meets a question mark that he begins to realize that he’s not the only one who stands out. Rosenthal’s clever text is perfectly matched by Lichtenheld’s boldly graphic illustrations that somehow manage to impart a huge amount of human expression to the exclamation mark as he searches for a way to “make his mark” in the world.


Visiting her great-grandfather, a young girl discovers a cigar box containing a number of matchboxes, each with something inside it. As author Paul Fleisch-man relates in “The Matchbox Diary” (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 5-8), the items inside the matchboxes tell the story of the great-grandfather’s long-ago journey from Italy to America. It’s a story filled with challenges and hope, as well as the great-grandfather’s intense longing for literacy and a better way of life in his adopted country. Fleischman, who won the 1989 Newbery Medal, offers readers a memorable and moving immigration story from a child’s point of view. (Note: The Newbery Medal is given annually by the American Library Association to the best-written children’s book.) Fleischman’s text is complemented by evocative illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline; the illustrations, done in acrylic gouache on pages meant to look yellowed with age, overflow with an unusual mix of grandeur and heart.


Most kids (and let’s face it, many grown-ups, too) are afraid of the dark. But author Lemony Snicket brilliantly demystifies it by making it a character in “The Dark” (Little, Brown, $16.99, ages 4-8). Snicket, best known for his best-selling children’s novels “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” here tells the story of a boy who is respectful, not terrified, of the dark until one night, when his night light goes out.

At that point, he hears the dark speaking to him, urging him to come down to where the dark really hangs out in the boy’s house — the farthest corner of the basement.

It’s there that the adventurous boy finds just what he needs: a new bulb for his night light. Children will find this book utterly fascinating as they discover a new way to think of the dark, and they will take courage from the gouache-and-digital illustrations of 2013 Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen, who manages to combine both creepy and cozy elements in his artwork. (Note: The Caldecott Medal is given annually by the American Library Association to the best-illustrated children’s book.)


Both kids and their parents will be enthralled by “Building Our House” (FSG, $17.99, ages 4-8). Written and illustrated by Jonathan Bean, the book gives readers a step-by-step look at the laborious but fascinating task of creating a house from the ground up. Based on Bean’s own childhood experience, “Building Our House” is slightly larger in size than typical picture books, and Bean makes great use of the extra space to offer lots of humorous details and close-ups of the construction work in his watercolor-and-ink illustrations.


Karen MacPherson, the children’s/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.

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