Captain Jack and the Pirates, by Peter Bently, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury; Dial Books, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5.
Masters of nursery-school storytelling Peter Bently and Helen Oxenbury have teamed up to create this charming pirate tale set on the high seas of childhood imagination. Jack, Zack, and Caspar (who first appeared in King Jack and the Dragon)are at the beach, building a sandy galleon ready to ferry the boys on a swashbuckling adventure involving treasure and other (slightly parental-looking) pirates. Bently’s prose bobs with gentle rhymes peppered with nautical vocabulary like mainsail and bosun, while Oxenbury’s trademark illustrations bear her singular touch: here, cherubic youngsters revel in the timeless pleasures of make-believe. A delight from stem to stern, Captain Jack and the Pirates is a likely contender to join the pantheon of beloved children’s books.
Zig and the Magic Umbrella, by Sylvie Kantorovitz; Dial Press, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5. (On Sale March 15, 2015)
We’re looking at another rain-themed book this week, and this time it’s Sylvie Kantorovitz’s latest read-aloud, Zig and the Magic Umbrella. A timid, suspender-wearing blue ogre wakes up to a dark and rainy day, but when he grabs a red umbrella flying by his window, Zig is carried away to a magical forest. There, he meets a frantic yellow bird who needs help freeing his flock from a mean monster’s lair, and Zig summons his courage to save the day. That red umbrella comes in handy too – it transforms into a bridge, a boat, a lever, and even a dart. Kantorovitz’s collage and acrylic illustrations stay in the primary color range but vary in tone, creating a warm and inviting imaginary world. Her use of color recalls the whimsical exuberance of fellow French illustrator Hervé Tullet. The story is just long enough for young readers, and really serves as backdrop to the wonderful art. In all, Zig’s adventure is a cute story that will encourage children to use their imaginations to create their own adventures on dreary days.