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Use Your Imagination: New Books for Younger Readers

Bear Despair by Gaëtan Dorémus
A large blue bear naps with his pudgy purple teddy. A smile plays across the bear’s wide face. What lovely dreams he must be having. But then, oh no! A long-legged, long-snouted, sharply toothed fox sneaks upon the sleeping bear. He steals the bear’s stuffie! He runs off, laughing, into the night! The bear immediately chases after the thief. But he doesn’t get the teddy back right away. Instead, he must reckon with other mishaps and other thieves. How he eventually reclaims his teddy — and deals with his robbers –  makes for the great excitement and pathos of Bear Despair. It’s a surprising, action-packed tale told entirely through charmingly scratchy drawings in gorgeous, layered colors. Part of Enchanted Lion Books’ “Stories Without Words” series, there isn’t a single word in the book. And it doesn’t need it. (Preschool – Kindergarten)

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
In this clever new picture book, uniforms and accessories left to dry on clothes lines spark a guessing game of professions. Presented against an all-white background, the simple shirts, pants, hats, and accoutrements hanging along the line contrast satisfyingly with the full-page spread that follows of the person wearing the clothes and performing his or her job– fireman, artist, chef, and so on. The authors do a wonderful job of switching traditional gender roles, so the artist is a man; the carpenter a woman; the chef a man; and the firefighter a woman. The book ends with a fabulous blast into outer space:

Space suit and jet pack
star charts to review.
Flight gloves and moon boots.
What job does she do?

She is an astronaut! (Preschool – Kindergarten)

Maya Makes a Mess by Rutu Modan
The newest addition to the Toon Books series, Maya Makes a Mess marks the children’s book debut of the accomplished Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan. With Maya, Modan maintains her clean drawing style, sharply detailed eye, and all of her wry humor. When Maya’s messy eating prompts her exasperated Papa to exclaim, “You need manners! What if you were eating dinner with the queen?!” he couldn’t have guessed that in the very next moment, a messenger from the queen herself would invite Maya to dinner at the palace. And although Maya does her best to mind her manners, things don’t exactly go according to plan at the royal dining table. Filled with detailed images and shocking turns, this outrageous tale is sure to delight young readers and messy eaters alike. Warning: Miss Manners would definitely not approve! (Grades 1 – 3)

Wolf Story by William McCleery, illustrated by Warren Chappell
It’s a moment familiar to many: As a father tucks his son in bed, the five-year-old boy demands a story. The father sighs, settles down, and begins. Only, the supposedly sleepy child has many opinions about the story: “No, not Goldilocks!… A new story!” In this case, the wide-awake youngster exclaims: “One with a wolf! And a hen! A hen named Rainbow!” And thus begins one of the most amusing and loving novels I’ve read in some time. As the father and son construct their bedtime tale together, it begins to grow. They tell it at the park, then again at night, and once more at the beach, this time with the boy’s friend in tow. As daytime and nighttime weave together, the story follows them — sometimes requiring the long-suffering dad to demand a time-out — sometimes actually lulling the son to sleep. Recently republished by The New York Review of Books Children’s Collection, this lost classic deserves a spot on any child’s bookshelf — and may soon be one of your family’s most favorite read-alouds. (Grades 1 – 4)

- Molly

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