Monday, April 19, 2010

PW's Starred Reviews

-- Publishers Weekly, 4/19/2010

Picture Books

Lyle Walks the Dogs: A Counting Book by Bernard Waber, illus. by Paulis Waber. Houghton Mifflin, $12.99 (24p) ISBN 978-0-547-22323-0

Bernard Waber's beloved crocodile lands a dog-walking job in this peppy story—more than just a counting book—aimed at a younger audience than its predecessors. Debut illustrator Paulis Waber's watercolor, ink, and pencil drawings flawlessly replicate the airiness and humor of her father's iconic art. Every day, Lyle adds another pooch to his responsibilities, each with a distinct personality. Paulis Waber conveys the canines' boundless energy and Lyle's patience and good humor, while the chatty text reaches out to the croc (“Hang on to Frisky, Lyle!”), the dogs (“Come along, Pokey!”), and readers (“Lyle walks 4 dogs. Count them—1-2-3-4”). Sniffy, the 10th and last canine to join the entourage, picks up the scent of a squirrel and gives chase, dragging Lyle and the others with him. But this, like the other mishaps that take place, is resolved in short order. After the mayhem subsides, kids will eagerly chime in as a final head count confirms that all of Lyle's charges are accounted for. The tale concludes with kudos to the protagonist (“Good job, Lyle!”), praise that should extend to the collaborators as well. Ages 3–5. (May)

The Chicken Thief by Béatrice Rodriguez. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59270-092-9

In Rodriguez's wordless debut, a bear and rabbit are enjoying a peaceful lunch in the garden outside their cottage when a fox makes off with one of their hens. Their rooster wrings his wings melodramatically, and all three give chase. The book's squat format and panoramic spreads help build the tension—and comedy—in the scenes that follow: the fox, on the right, is always a step ahead, while the bear, the rabbit, and the rooster trail behind, beating through forests or crossing a stormy ocean on the bear's belly. Rodriguez succeeds in creating a distinctive personality for each of the characters, and her ability to capture the players' emotions via body language is masterful. The tenderness with which the fox carries the white hen makes it clear early on that his intentions are not malicious, and the mood changes to one of romantic intrigue. Readers will find themselves simultaneously cheering for the happy couple and sympathizing with the rooster, who's crushed. For readers who love a good chase—and who doesn't?—this one is a delight from beginning to end. Ages 4–7. (May)
How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps by Jennifer LaRue Huget, illus. by Edward Koren. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-84410-2

“Pull everything out of your drawers and closet and shelves. Every Single Thing,” instructs the young narrator in Huget's (Thanks a LOT, Emily Post!) goofily earnest how-not-to manual, which is all but guaranteed to induce laughter. “Divide your big pile into three different piles. One pile of stuff that's broken. One pile of stuff you're too grown-up to play with anymore. And one pile of things that you love more than anything else in the world and want to keep forever and ever.” Guess which pile is the biggest. With marching orders like that—and tips like “Pizza crusts may be munched on if they're less than a month old”—kids may find themselves asking their parents if it's time for housekeeping. Pairing Huget's cracked domestic advice with Koren (Thelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie) is truly inspired. The New Yorker cartoonist's lavishly squiggly, scratchy ink line and endearingly discombobulated characters (which include not only the narrator but a scruffy retinue of real and stuffed animals) seem as natural a fit for this subject as dust bunnies under a bed. Bless this mess! Ages 4–8. (May)


Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Little, Brown, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-05621-2

SF novelist Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl) makes a stellar YA debut with this futuristic tale of class imbalance on the Gulf Coast. Teenage Nailer scavenges ships with his crewmates, eking out a poverty-filled existence while avoiding dangers that range from giant “city killer” hurricanes to his vicious, drug-addicted father. When a storm strands a beautiful shipping heiress on the beach (earning her the nickname “Lucky Girl”), Nailer manages both to infuriate members of his camp (including his father) and to become embroiled in upper-class trade disputes that he barely comprehends. As Nailer and Lucky Girl escape toward the drowned ruins of New Orleans, they witness rampant class disparity on individual and international levels (tribes whose lands were flooded have taken to the seas as pirates, attacking multinational shipping firms). Bacigalupi's cast is ethnically and morally diverse, and the book's message never overshadows the storytelling, action-packed pacing, or intricate world-building. At its core, the novel is an exploration of Nailer's discovery of the nature of the world around him and his ability to transcend that world's expectations. Ages 12–up. (May)

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