stomp” over to collect them, they run and
hide, disguising themselves as birds and
flowers. While the kids may win in the
short term (“Babies, we’re calling!/ We hope
you are near!/ Playtime is over./ Sleep time is
here”), the end is never in doubt, and none
of the little ones looks too disappointed,
given all the snuggles and sweet species-specific lullabies that McMullan (I’m Cool!)
unspools: “Rock-a-bye bear cub,/ Come
closer now, scootch/ So Mama can land/ a
Panda bear smooch.” Nyeu (Squid and
Octopus: Friends for Always) puts together
a dreamy tapestry of blue curving lines
and lush botanical motifs, with accents
of yellow and orange that underscore the
playful game of hide-and-seek woven
throughout. McMullan’s rhymes are spot
on in every way, and despite spiky moments
of mischief, the overall impression is comforting and lulling. Ages 3–5.
Victoria Ying. Harper, $15.99 ISBN 978-
Using only slight variations of the
“meow” of the title as dialogue, Ying (Lost
and Found, What’s That Sound?) follows an
anthropomorphic gray kitten around his
house as he looks for someone to play with.
“Meow?” says the kitten imploringly to
his parents and older sister, holding out a
yellow ball of
sends the kit-
ten into a funk
and he angrily
yarn all over
the house. A time-out (“Meow!!” say his
mother and father, pointing emphatically
to a small chair) and a mewled apology let
everyone reboot. Younger children should
appreciate the idea that just because others
don’t want to play right at this moment
doesn’t mean they never will. The cute-as-
a-button characters and soft, furry textures
of Ying’s digital paintings never become
sticky-sweet, perhaps because she has a
way of turning the cat’s large eyes into
black pools of fury. She also gets excellent
mileage out of her “meows”—readers will
relish how many emotional shadings a
single word can have. Ages 4–8.
Pup and Bear
Kate Banks, illus. by Naoko Stoop.
Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99
Discovered by a polar bear, an accidentally abandoned wolf cub flattens his ears
against his head in fear, declares, “You are
not my mother,” and expects the worst.
“Aren’t you going to eat me?” he asks. But
the polar bear, for reasons never expressed,
demurs and takes the cub into her life.
While insisting “I am not your mother”
again and again, she does everything a
mother would: she cuddles him, keeps
him safe, plays with him, teaches him
how to catch food, and (eventually) sends
him into the world. Painted, once again,
on plywood, Stoop’s compositions are
largely composed along the same horizontal plane, mostly eschewing close-ups.
And it works: the subdued visual mood
is a lovely match for Banks’s unadorned
prose, and the characters’ relationship to
the harsh landscape underscores their
resilience. By story’s end, when the wolf
pays the polar bear’s kindness forward,
it’s clear that offering compassion is what
keeps “the wondrous wheel of life” moving forward. Ages 3–7.
Say Hello, Sophie!
Rosemary Wells. Viking, $17.95
It’s a situation virtually any parent can
identify with: Sophie the mouse won’t
say “hello” or “thank you” in social situa-
tions where the words are called for. As in
Sophie’s previous outings (Use Your Words,
Sophie!, among others), Wells shows an
uncanny understanding of what Sophie
is thinking and feeling (“It was just too
in with a sly approach: a conveniently
timed “toothache” forces Sophie to take
the lead at Zeke’s Palace of Ice Cream.
It’s another spot-on portrait of family
life, with some very real solutions for
frustrated parents and bashful kids. Up
to age 3.
There’s Nothing to Do!
Dev Petty, illus. by Mike Boldt.
Doubleday, $16.99 ISBN 978-0-399-
The malcontented frog from I Don’t Want
to Be a Frog and I Don’t Want to Be Big is
at a loss about what to do with his day.
“You can’t think of anything?” his father
asks, working on a crossword puzzle. “I
can think of lots of things... buuuuut I
don’t want to do any of them,” replies the
frog, wearing an expression that suggests
he can’t believe his father would even ask
such a question. Friends’ suggestions do
nothing for the frog (“You should lick
between your toes for a while,” proposes
Cat), who eventually realizes that doing
nothing—or at least being present in
the moment—can be something in itself.
Snappy, spot-on dialogue pairs ideally
with the outsize drama of Boldt’s artwork;
reading this book belongs on families’
to-do lists. Ages 3–7.
Things to Do with Dad
Sam Zuppardi. Candlewick, $16.99
After a gleeful pancake breakfast, a boy
and his father gaze despondently at a to-do
list tacked to the refrigerator. The boy
pany as he
boy augments the items on the list: mak-
ing the beds turns into “sail[ing] a pirate
ship” (the billowing sheets evoke sails)
and instead of watering the garden, they
“explore the jungle.” The book’s only text
is the words on the list, but Zuppardi’s
(Jack’s Worry) joyful, mixed-media art