"I'm Not Cute." written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen. Baby Owl is small, fluffy, and big-eyed, but he's not cute. He's a sleek and silent hunting machine and he wants everyone to know it. But when he goes for a walk, the other animals tell him how cute he is and try to cuddle him - it makes him angry. But Mama Owl knows just what to say and do to soothe her fierce little hunter in this cheery and gentle book.
"Invisible," written and illustrated by Katja Kamm. The funky illustrations in this wordless book play with color and perception to make objects seem to appear and disappear. A goggle-eyed boy loses his orange shirt as he steps into an orange page. A young girl trips over a dog who is invisible against a matching background (except for his eyes and collar). Faces, hands, and feet floating against a grape background turn out to be purple-robed nuns out for a walk. Part of the fun of this book is going back for a second and third look to see what's going on.
"Stanley's Wild Ride," by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Bill Slavin. Stanley the dog is bored, bored, bored by his yard - he's lived there his whole life and nothing ever changes. Then he finds a small hole that he makes bigger, wiggles through, and he's free. After helping his friends escape their homes, the five dogs run amok, eating garbage, chasing cats and soaking tires. When they find things with wheels (some of which smell like feet), the dogs go on a wild adventure that ends with a crash-landing in Stanley's back yard. And even though the hole in his fence gets filled in, he's learned a very important lesson - there's always a way over. Energetic art showcases the dogs' personalities and joy in being out for a night on the town.
"Estelle Takes a Bath," by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma. When a chilly mouse on a frosty night spots a warmly lit kitchen, he can't resist finding a way in. But Estelle's already there, immersed in a hot bubble bath in this bouncy rhyming story, and when she and the mouse connect noses over the peppermint bubbles, chaos breaks loose. But just as Estelle's nearing triumph, her heart softens and she and the mouse find a way to share the house and the bubbles (much to the cat's disgust). Solid rhymes, lots of laughs, and great illustrations will make this a repeat read.
"Sparks Fly High," retold by Mary Quattlebaum, illustrated by Leonid Gore. The glowing pictures tell the story of proud Colonel Lightfoot, who thinks so much of himself, his land, and his dancing that he dares to make a deal with the devil in this folktale from colonial Virginia. All of the Colonel's land is fertile except for one small spot that is marshland. At night, sparks dance in the sky over the marsh, and folks know that it is the devil dancing. One night he throws sparks so wide that they singe the Colonel's dancing clothes - and that is the last straw. The Colonel challenges the devil to a dancing contest; the prize is the land itself. They dance till the demons playing the drums pack up and go home and the angels strumming the harps fly off, all too tired to play any more. They dance till the Colonel thinks that maybe the devil will win. And then he has an idea.
"Happy Birthday, Jamela," written and illustrated by Niki Daly. Adorable Jamela is back and having a birthday. When she and Mama and Gogo find the perfect party dress, they also see princess shoes. But Mama buys plain black shoes because Jamela needs shoes she can wear to school, too. When they get home, Jamela has a great idea - she transforms her black shoes into sparkly bright ones with glue, beads, and glitter. Mama is upset that Jamela's ruined her new shoes, but their neighbor, Lily, loves them. She invites Jamela to help her decorate shoes to sell at market, and splits the proceeds with her. By the time the party starts, everyone's happy and Jamela has a special present waiting for her.
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