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Picture Books to Make Your Kid — and You — Giggle and Guffaw

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

Friends, I bring you delights! Glittery, silly, rambunctious delights. Five new humorous children’s books offer young readers a plethora of pleasure, plus pants for potatoes. Though very different from one another, four of the five feature classic children’s book imagery in one form or another. The fifth features, as I said, potato pants.

In KING ALICE (Feiwel and Friends, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), Matthew Cordell, who won the 2017 Caldecott Medal for “Wolf in the Snow,” captures the joy (for kids) and frequent exasperation (for parents) of the dreary, slushy indoor snow day. On a blustery day off from school, young Alice is determined to fill her hours with adventure, enlisting her willing, but bedraggled, dad into the fun. After declaring herself king (“You mean queen,” suggests her father. “No! King!” says Alice), Her Highness sets out to cram every ounce of fun from their indoor family time, capturing all of it in a book-within-a-book recounting her adventures. Not even a timeout for the crime of accidental unicorn bopping deters from the fun with Dad. Cordell’s art is lively and especially funny when presented from the king’s crayons. Children may enjoy the fact that even a Caldecott Medal winner is not above a little gastrointestinal humor (this child certainly did). Alice’s mother and baby brother are also along for the ride. Parents will laugh in recognition at the household chaos busy young minds can create during stretches of unexpected indoor time.

David Ezra Stein’s INTERRUPTING CHICKEN AND THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE (Candlewick, 48 pp., $16.99; ages 4 to 8) reunites readers with their inquisitive feathered friend from the Caldecott Honor book “Interrupting Chicken.” This time, Chicken returns from school excited to read with her father. Why? Because her teacher, Mrs. Gizzard, has told her that every good story has an “elephant of surprise.” Her father thinks that perhaps Chicken means something else, but, as we learned in “King Alice,” fathers are easily confused. (It wasn’t “Queen” Alice, nor is it the “element of surprise.”) Chicken knows precisely what she’s looking for — she’s on an elephant hunt, and she finds one in every story she reads. Did you know, for example, that Rapunzel features a bubbly blue elephant with exquisite blond braids? Now you do. Stein’s art is rich, textured and varied. Like “King Alice,” this book features stories within stories. All with elephants. Lots and lots of elephants, each of them, as advertised, surprising.

Those who love their artwork textured will adore JUST ADD GLITTER (Beach Lane, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), a collaboration between the author Angela DiTerlizzi and the illustrator Samantha Cotterill. On a rainy day, the mail carrier leaves a box on a little girl’s stoop. And just in time. She and her cat are feeling “bored and ignored.” What better way to “put some shine upon your crown” than an unexpected package of glitter? Within moments, the girl is spreading sparkles everywhere: on her paper crown, paper dinosaurs and stars, and all over the bedroom rug. If your walls are “looking for glitz,” or just a few more “flashy bits,” glitter is just the thing for you. The cat, though, seems hip to a problem with which parents are all too familiar: Glitter gets everywhere. Pretty soon they’re chin deep in the stuff. After some judicious (and from experience I would say overly optimistic) sweeping, the glitter is gone, with the little girl and cat discovering that you don’t need a special delivery to find a little sparkle. With its fun rhymes and blinged-out pages, “Just Add Glitter” will appeal to those young crafts enthusiasts who have never met a surface that couldn’t use a little extra razzle-dazzle.

A young knight guards against frightful creatures in Jon Agee’s THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK (Dial, 40 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), which uses the clever conceit of the book’s “gutter” — that space between each set of two pages — as a boundary between all that is safe on one side, and all that is scary on the other. Our knight explains to his readers that the brick wall we see there keeps him safe from a scary menagerie of animals. Tigers and rhinos and gorillas — oh my! Yet, the true menace on the other side of the book is a bearded ogre who would undoubtedly “eat me up” if he ever caught our young hero. Thank goodness for the high wall protecting him. But something seems to be happening on his “safe” side … something that may require the knight to rethink everything he thought he knew about barriers and who resides on the other side. Agee is the creator of many acclaimed books including “Milo’s Hat Trick” and “It’s Only Stanley,” and this deceptively simple story offers a genuine lesson in the value of all creatures, great and small. Whatever they may look like, oftentimes our biggest fears come from the uncertainty of not being able to see across a boundary. And sometimes, the greatest dangers are right in front of our own two eyes.

Finally, I promised potato pants, and that is exactly what you’re going to get. Laurie Keller’s whimsical POTATO PANTS! (Holt/Christy Ottaviano, 32 pp., $16.99; ages 4 to 8) tells the tale of the one day — the only day — in which Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store is selling potato pants. A horde of naked potatoes rushes to the store by “spud bus” and “tuber Uber” to grab those tuber trousers because “once they’re gone, they’re gone!” Unfortunately for our hero, a big, purple eggplant has trespassed into the store, the same eggplant who rudely shoved our hero out of the way the previous day. Now, potato is worried that the eggplant will see him again and he will once again suffer at the hands of that bullying aubergine. Meanwhile, all the good potato pants are flying off the racks. How will our potato pal get his pants? As in “The Wall in the Middle of the Book,” Keller presents a worst-case scenario and gradually dispels the fear. Might he have mistaken the eggplant’s intentions? There’s plenty of silly illustrations and attractive potato pants to keep chuckling readers turning pages to the end.


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