Goodnight, Construction Site (2011). The five
truck buddies (Crane Truck, Dump Truck,
Cement Mixer, Bulldozer, and Excavator)
wake up in the construction site. Newly delivered blueprints tell them they’re in for an
enormous building job, much more than
even this intrepid crew can handle. Cement
Mixer’s series of blaring honks summons 10
other trucks to help. Construction-loving
kids will adore the wealth of details about the
roles of each. A nice touch is that two starring
roles are given to female trucks (Skid Steer can
break up rocks and maneuver in tight spaces;
Flatbed can handle big loads of materials).
Lichtenheld’s colorful wax-oil pastels burst
with the trucks’ activity and make creative use
of inset illustration panels. The rhyming text
makes the plot as zippy as the trucks, all of
which sport endearingly expressive headlights
and grilles. While this covers much of the
same ground as the first book, it drives home
good lessons on hard work and teamwork.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Goodnight,
Goodnight, Construction Site became both
an ALA and a New York Times Notable
Children’s Book, as well as a number one
best-seller. People will be revving their engines to get their hands on this sequel.
Mosquitoes Can’t Bite Ninjas.
By Jordan P. Novak. Illus. by the author.
Mar. 2017. 32p. Bloomsbury, $16.99 (9781681192154).
A young ninja explains why ninjas don’t
get bitten by mosquitoes in this ninja-versus-mosquito exposé. While all other humans
seem to be fair game for mosquitoes, the
bloodsucking insect is no match for the ninja’s
quick, stealthy movements. In true Wile E.
Coyote–Road Runner fashion, the mosquito
moves in for the attack just as the ninja quickly sidesteps, causing the mosquito to crash
into an object just beyond the recently vacated space. With eye-catching, brightly colored
ink drawings featuring simple, cartoon-style
figures, this is naturally appealing for audiences of any size. Full-page spreads are gracefully
balanced with equally appealing spot art, the
text is minimal with five words or less on most
pages, and ample action is involved with all
the sneaking and quick movement. The ending offers a little twist—while mosquitoes
can’t bite ninjas, the same can’t be said for
ninjas biting mosquitoes!—and this would be
great fun for a read-aloud. —Randall Enos
By Claude Ponti. Illus. by the author. Tr.
by Alyson Waters.
Mar. 2017. 42p. Archipelago/Elsewhere Editions, $24
(9780914671626). Gr. 1–3.
Poochie-Blue is one of many Twims,
squirrel-like creatures who live in a tree over-
looking a beautiful valley, and, in this oversize
picture book, he gives readers a tour of his
home and its many wonders over the course
of the year. Poochie-Blue tells of the valley’s
islands, like “Surprise Island, where you find
a new present every day”; Dads’ Night (“A big
statue of Dad Twims appears on the mountain.
And all dads go inside it to learn how to be a
dad”); the Theater of Hissy Fits, where Twims
go when they get mad; and plenty more. The
paragraphs of surreal snippets are full of non-
sensical language, but there are also moments
of pithy meaning, like when Poochie-Blue ex-
plains Twims cemeteries. While there’s no real
narrative, Ponti’s beautiful, intricate illustra-
tions contain strange details hinting at larger
stories. The guileless narrative sounds like it
came directly from the brain of a child with
a vivid imagination, and fanciful kids drawn
by the enchanting artwork might find their
own imaginations sparked by this odd, playful
French import. —Sarah Hunter
Rulers of the Playground.
By Joseph Kuefler. Illus. by the author.
Apr. 2017. 48p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99
(9780062424327). PreS–Gr. 1.
Playground antics are taken to a new level
when Jonah declares himself the playground
ruler, demanding his friends’ allegiance if they
wish to play there. All the kids agree except
for Lennox, a feisty girl in a flouncy yellow
dress, who stakes her own claim on the swings’
side of the playground. “Cross you heart and
promise to follow my rules,” she cries as the
kids scurry from Jonah’s slides to her swings.
This can only mean one thing: war. The two
rulers draw up plans to conquer each other,
only to find they have no subjects left to
command, as their friends have retreated to
neutral, less bossy territory. Lennox and Jonah survey their empty kingdoms and realize
apologies are in order. Kuefler’s high-spirited
watercolor illustrations set the action and
the diverse group of children against white
backdrops, keeping the focus on the emerging coup. This playful lesson in camaraderie
and social etiquette pairs well Olivier Tallec’s
tyrannical Louis I, King of the Sheep (2015).
Shorty & Clem.
By Michael Slack. Illus. by the author.
Apr. 2017. 40p. Harper, $17.99 (9780062421586).
Shorty, a dinosaur of short stature, is waiting for pal Clem, a quail, when he notices a
package addressed to Clem, which piques his
interest and speculation. Maybe it’s a race car!
He resists: “No, this is not mine and I should
not open it, but . . . I will drive it!” He hops
atop the box, pretending to zoom it around.
Or maybe it’s a trampoline, which invites
bouncing on it. It makes a thump when he lifts
it, so maybe it’s bongos! Or even monkeys?!
The temptation is too much: Shorty opens it.
What’s inside brings utter delight, but also remorse for opening his pal’s package. But Clem
only playfully chides him upon returning,
because he has a surprise for Shorty. Vibrant,
blocky digital illustrations with cartoonish exaggerations and textural touches expressively
depict calm Clem and excitable Shorty, while
the animated text amusingly captures curiosity,
anticipation, imaginative play, and impatience.
Wrapped in humor and understanding, this
enjoyably highlights the spirit and meaning of
friendship. —Shelle Rosenfeld
Superfairies: Adventures in
By Janey Louise Jones. Illus. by Jennie Poh.
Apr. 2017. 192p. Capstone, paper, $6.95
(9781623708191). Gr. 1–3.
Rose, Berry, Star, and Silk, superfairies
charged with looking after all the woodland
animals in Peaseblossom Woods, have their
work cut out for them year round. This book
is divided into four short stories, each taking
place during a different season. Though each
story stands on its own (they save a bear cub
in spring, comfort a dancing pony in summer,
save a mouse that has been swept away in the
wind in fall, and rescue a reckless rabbit in
winter), the stories are in chronological order
and often reference previous events. There
are some recurring characters, and each short
story has a definitive moral or message. The
frequent, beautiful illustrations, full of vivid
color and playful detail, nicely enhance the
text and occasionally contain some of the
prose. Jones’ cute, inventive descriptions of
their tools and environment paint a lively
picture of the superfairies’ world. Beginning
readers who love all things Disney will find
a similar style of story here. —Kristina Pino
Yours Sincerely, Giraffe.
By Megumi Iwasa. Illus. by Jun
Takabatake. Tr. by Cathy Hirano.
Apr. 2017. 104p. Gecko, $16.99 (9781927271889). Gr. 1–3.
Giraffe should be content; he has plenty to
eat and a comfortable home. But he’s bored
and wonders what lies over the horizon. Upon
seeing Pelican’s sign for his new delivery service, Giraffe gets the idea
to write a letter to someone on the other side. He
instructs Pelican to give the
letter to the first animal he
sees over the horizon, and
so Penguin becomes the
lucky recipient of Giraffe’s
note, courtesy of his local
messenger seal. Letters go back and forth between Giraffe and Penguin, and Giraffe grows
curious about what his correspondent looks
like. Hilarity ensues as Giraffe and Pelican,
neither of whom has ever seen a penguin,
search the missives for clues so they can dress
Giraffe to look like Penguin. When at last the
pen pals meet, what a surprise awaits! But who
cares how they look? Through their letters, a
lasting friendship has developed between the
animals. The combination of short narrative,
dialogue, letters, and humorous pen-and-ink
drawings is a winning one. For children who
send or receive few letters, the book’s a great
introduction to letter writing, although this
isn’t its main purpose. The gentle friendship
story will leave readers feeling warm and
fuzzy, making this early chapter book a great
addition to any collection. —J. B. Petty