the Unicorn (2014), which offered a clever
fantasy twist with its premise of a unicorn
that believed in little girls. Here Uni and the
little girl work together to try and help the
unicorn world, which has been plagued by
rain. In fact, so much rain has been falling
for so long that there hasn’t been any sunshine or rainbows, and without these, the
unicorns lose their strength and magic. At
the book’s beginning, Barrager’s illustrations
show elongated unicorns standing among
tear-shaped, lavender trees and blue-gray
drops of rain, looking very much like the
stylized, two-dimensional unicorns in medieval tapestries like the famous The Lady and
the Unicorn. Once Uni and the little girl are
introduced, however, the illustrations become My Little Pony–like with eye-popping
colors, stars, and flowing manes. As the pair
frolics through the land of unicorns, the
creatures’ spirits lift with magical results.
The over-the-top cutesy factor is high, and
the story is cotton-candy light, but unicorn
fans will be enchanted. —Connie Fletcher
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The
combination of Rosenthal and unicorns
has already proven to be a best-selling
one. Demand may be even higher for this
posthumous offering, as fans seek out
Rosenthal’s final works.
Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for
By Mo Willems. Illus. by the author.
2017. 32p. Hyperion, $15.99 (9781484767467).
In a board book kitted out with big,
bright, very simple images (plus large foil
mirrors inside both front and rear covers),
Willems clues in newborns—and perhaps
what they can expect to see, do, and
meet in their near
range from “
sleeping and waking,
eating and burping,
pooping and more pooping” to music, cats,
stories, and warm embraces. And though
there will also (“Sorry”) be ice cream disasters, along with some sadness and hurt,
unexpected events, and human error, “we
are happy to provide you love. At no extra
cost.” Furthermore, that offer extends to
children who “toddle or big-kid or teenage
or grow-up.” The repeated observation that
all of this is coming “while we read this book
together” runs as a sonorous refrain throughout, adding extra measures of intimacy to an
affirmation of parental love that comes across
as sincere without crossing over into the
goopy sentimentality that afflicts so much of
the “I love you more than anything” genre.
Along with being a shoe-in for inclusion in
every maternity ward’s gift bag, this loving
heads-up will continue to resonate with all
offspring as they go on to toddle, big-kid,
and beyond. —John Peters
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Willems is a
reliable best-seller, and love letters from parents to children are always in demand.
When’s My Birthday?
By Julie Fogliano. Illus. by
Sept. 2017. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, $17.99
(9781626722934). PreS–Gr. 1.
In an infectious, bouncy rhythm, Fogliano
playfully captures the antsy excitement for birthdays in a pitch-perfect kid voice. In between a
refrain of “When’s my birthday?
/ Where’s my birthday? / How
many days until / my birthday?”
Fogliano’s verses cover food and
presents, who to invite, and, of
course, the all-important cake.
Robinson’s thickly painted collage illustrations feature cheery
children and friendly creatures
in birthday hats, with always happy faces enjoying the delights described in Fogliano’s lines.
Amid all the anticipation and happy planning,
the text takes a realistically worried turn when
the waiting seems so endless that the narrator
wonders whether he or she will have a birthday at all. Luckily, after a near-sleepless night,
the day finally arrives: “It’s the daytime! / Here’s
my birthday! / Happy happy! / Hee! Hee! Hee! ”
Robinson’s signature style—bold collages depicting kids and animals in blocky shapes—is
the ideal vehicle for Fogliano’s frolicsome text,
and the two together evoke a quintessentially
childlike glee, which adults will recognize
and little ones will revel in. There might be a
more perfect picture book about birthdays
out there, but you’d be hard-pressed to find it.
Where Are You, Wilbert?
By Bárður Oskarsson. Illus. by the
author. Tr. by Marita Thomsen.
Oct. 2017. 36p. Owlkids, $16.95 (9781771473019). Gr. 1–3.
Lighter—not to mention less unsettling—
than The Flat Rabbit (2014), this new outing
from the Faroese Oskarsson playfully explores
the relationship between perception and expectations. During a game of hide-and-seek,
conducted in a setting that consists solely of a
flat horizon line and a few isolated trees and
shrubs, a rat invites a crocodile—hilariously
depicted with oddly mismatched eyes and
dentifrice sprouting sideways like a serrated
fringe—to look for Wilbert. What does he look
like? “Well,” says the tiny rat, “he looks a lot
like me, only a bit taller.” This turns out to be
true, in a sense, as the elusive quarry proves to
be larger than the biggest tree in sight. But even
after Wilbert lumbers out of “hiding” to tower
directly in front of her, the crocodile’s attention
is fixed so low that, then and in later rounds of
the game, she never spots him. Minimalist art
and narrative notwithstanding, this is a funny
and thought-provoking cousin to the blind
men and the elephant parable. —John Peters
Yo Soy Muslim.
By Mark Gonzales. Illus. by
Aug. 2017. 32p. Simon & Schuster/Salaam Reads, $17.99
(9781481489362); e-book, $17.99 (9781481489379).
Framed as a letter from a father to his daughter, this joyful, reverent book invites readers
into a sacred space. A young girl climbs trees
to counts stars, gazes up at a skyscraper, and
flies through the moonlit
night, all the while her
father, in the exquisite
poetic text, reminds her
that life is as filled with
beauty as it is with questions: “Who invented my
hands? Why wasn’t I born
with wings?” There are
also the more concrete questions that others
will ask: “Who are you? Where are you from?”
And then, as suspicious eyes gaze, comes the
honest gut punch: “And there will come a
day when some people in the world will not
smile at you.” In a scene of serenity, the child
receives quiet but also profound advice: “Tell
them this. / Yo soy Muslim. / I am from Allah,
angels / and a place almost as old as time. /
I speak Spanish, Arabic / and dreams.” This
startling introduction to faith captures the
inclusiveness of Islam as do the following
spreads showing children of different races
and colors juxtaposed against scenes of nature and art. Using collage-style techniques
and featuring bold characters, Amini’s joyful,
boisterous art soars, and readers may well feel
they’re flying, too. A special book that truly
seems to “dance with the wind” and “smile at
the sun.” —Ilene Cooper
You Must Bring a Hat!
By Simon Philip. Illus. by Kate Hindley.
Aug. 2017. 40p. Sterling, $16.95 (9781454926887).
A party invitation boasting the “biggest,
bestest, hattiest” party of all time comes
with a condition: you MUST bring a hat.
This poses a dilemma for our narrator, who
doesn’t own one. And so a quest begins. Each
opportunity to acquire said hat comes with a
bizarre condition, so soon he is accompanied
by a hat-wearing monkey, a badger with a
monocle, and an elephant in a tutu, to name
a few. Hindley’s colorful illustrations emphasize the ridiculous situations and provide clues
for what’s coming (watch the monkey chase
a piano-removal truck), and discoveries can
be made on repeated readings. The madcap
parade seems matter-of-fact, as does our narrator, who finally becomes incensed at the
ridiculous demands. We learn more about
him in context clues (the invitation reminds
him not to be late THIS TIME), and the text
itself, bolded at times for emphasis, offers fun
vocabulary (shindig, negotiate, monocle). Pair
with Dr. Seuss’ And to Think That I Saw It on
Mulberry Street for another raucous progression of characters. —Edie Ching