Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux; Candlewick Press, 414.99, 32 pages, ages 0-6
Originally published in Europe in 2015, French author-illustrator Barroux’s wordless picture book arrived stateside earlier this spring, and brings with it a surprisingly powerful message about conserving natural resources. Readers meet a trio of wild animals who watch as their forest habitat slowly shrinks, giving way to cities and urban sprawl. Inspired by deforestation the author witnessed in Brazil, Where’s the Elephant? offers a nuanced look at the world around us. The greater message may be lost on younger readers, but may inspire important discussions with older children.
Skunk on a String, by Thao Lam; Owl Kids Books, $18.95, 40 pages, ages 2-6.
This wordless picture book about a high-flying skunk is a surprisingly adorable tale about overcoming adversity and prejudice. Young readers will adore following the hapless critter as he tries to enlist Good Samaritans to untie him from the tail of a balloon. Instead, he’s shoved away–he is a skunk, after all–and he floats above a parade, over a zoo, and even under water. Eventually, the skunk is released from his aerial bondage, only to realize he rather enjoyed the high life. Thao Lam’s charming paper collage art in a dizzying array of spots, stripes, and polka dots evoke a bustling cityscape. (Readers may recognize Lam’s art from Cricket and Highlights magazines, where she’s a regular contributor.) Skunk on a String is a subtle riff on the old adage, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” without uttering a word.