Check out this pair of sweet bird books that will have your little chicks peeping with joy:
Jump, Little Wood Ducks, by Marion Dane Bauer, photographs by Stan Tekila, Adventure Publications; $14.95, 32 pages, ages 1-4.
Wood ducks are perfectly named because they nest in the holes of trees. Though safe from certain predators, freshly hatched ducklings can’t fly yet, and getting out of the nest requires a real leap of faith, since some nests can be thirty feet high. Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer’s latest children’s book imagines the conversation between a mother wood duck and her anxious chicks as they survey their first real challenge. Nature photographer Stan Tekiela’s high-resolution images of wood ducklings are highly entertaining and encourage in-depth examination.
Blue Penguin, by Petr Horacek, Candlewick Press; 15.99, 32 pages, ages 1-6.
Petr Horacek has built a career sketching adorable parrots, geese, puffins, and other creatures to great acclaim–the Washington Post even called him “the thinking tot’s Eric Carle” back in 2006 when Silly Suzy Goose first appeared. Here, Blue Penguin feels just like a regular penguin, but the other birds don’t think he belongs and exclude him. Blue Penguin spends his days alone, singing a beautiful melody, until one day a small penguin asks Blue Penguin to teach him the song. Day by day, the duo become friends, and Horacek’s lovely ode to friendship and inclusion is a reminder that what unites us is more than skin-deep.
The Fly, by Petr Horáček; Candlewick Press, $14.99, 32 pages, ages 3-6.
In Petr Horáček’s latest addition to the world of children’s picture books, a rather good-natured, big-eyed housefly laments his lack of friends. The hairy-legged insect navigates his day, buzzing from breakfast to flying laps around the ceiling lamp while avoiding a large blue flyswatter, which little ones will adore flipping from side to side in attempts to crush the misunderstood and maligned insect. This poor creature just doesn’t understand why nobody likes him – he likes to share food, after all. The last page gives kids the opportunity to play God, and depending on one’s mood, the fly lives to see another day, or is squashed by the hard covers. (Can you hear the squeals now?) Like all of Horáček’s books (The Mous Who Ate The Moon; Puffin Peter), The Fly is interactive and engaging, with beautiful illustrations that belie the work that goes into them. The endpapers showcase the fly in repetition, and could inspire (adult) readers to scan the pages to create a unique PC background – literally putting flies the wall.
The arrival of crisp weather and bright colors also heralds the arrival of vibrant pop-up books.Below are two standout selections.
“One Spotted Giraffe,” by Petr Horácek; Candlewick Press, $15.99, 20 pages, ages 2 and up.
Learning to count becomes an exciting trip into the wild in the latest book by veteran illustrator Petr Horácek (“Beep Beep”; “Silly Suzy Goose”). This gorgeous gift of color and texture is delightful and charming.Children will adore pointing out the animals – from “One spotted giraffe,” to "Ten swimming fish.“ Meanwhile, a fold-over flap awaits on each page, offering a corresponding furry, spotted, or scaly three-dimensional numeral. Horácek’s boldly pigmented mixed-media illustrations on white background bring young readers focus directly to the whimsical creatures and numbers.
“Cinderella; a Three-Dimensional Fairy-Tale Theater,” by Jane Ray; Candlewick Press,$19.99, 12 pages, ages 4 and up.
Author-illustrator Jane Ray creates a whimsical fairytale theater similar to her 2007 three-dimensional adaptation of “Snow White”.Layered cut-paper artwork tells the classic story of the underappreciated diamond in the rough. The sumptuous backgrounds, ornate decoration and biracial characters seem to conjure a magical port city in the American South. (I’d like to think it may be New Orleans.) Budding engineers might want to disassemble the book to figure out how all the pieces work together.As the title suggests, the pages evoke theater sets, and the side panels hiding the text resemble stage curtains. “Cinderella” would be a beautiful and thoughtful gift for the serious pop-up collector and fairytale aficionado.