Young children become ardent fans of the picture book characters they’ve come to love. This fall brings many happy returns!
Mo Willem’s “The Pigeon Needs A Bath!” (Hyperion, ages 2-6) is the ninth starring appearance of the eccentric bird who has had cameos in many of the author-illustrator’s other picture books. The blue pigeon appears dirt-smeared on the cover, and even before the book opens, he shows his attitude in a speech bubble that replies to the title’s bath suggestion, “I do not.” The pigeon’s arch-enemy, the bus driver, appears right away, decked out in robe and shower cap and asking readers to help. “What a kidder,” responds the pigeon. “I don’t really need a bath!” Humor ensues as the pigeon approaches readers with his usual wheedling, conniving, philosophizing and denial, as if the flies buzzing around him mean nothing.
Kelly Bingham’s “Circle Square Moose” (Greenwillow, ages 3-5) marks the return of Moose in this book about shapes. He frustrates the unseen narrator no end while his friend Zebra tries to control the chaos from the beginning, as Moose devours a square sandwich, until the end, when he falls into a circular hole. Moose redeems the situation brilliantly and reaffirms his friendship with Zebra.
Candace Fleming’s “Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Splash” (Simon & Schuster, ages 4-7) again stars the frustrated Mr. McGreely, who tries (unsuccessfully) to circumvent bunny takeovers for the third time. Now, “He had bunnies in his garden. Bunnies in his shed. Bunnies in his cupboard. Bunnies in his…BED!” Will a restful day at the beach help? Of course the bunnies “click-clack-snap” into seat belts and are off to the beach as well. Fans will again enjoy Fleming’s refrains, word play, rhyming, pleasing resolution and G. Brian Karas’ humorous illustrations.
Kate and Jim McMullan’s “I’m Brave” (Balzer & Bray, ages 4-7) is the fourth in a series that personifies vehicles. This time a bright red fire engine asks “Whaddya call a big red engine with a siren, a horn, a tank full of water and a whole lotta hose?” After fire engine-like noise-making, he provides his own answer, “Good lookin’, that’s what.” Right away readers enter the perspective of this prideful, powerful engine as he playfully lists his parts, speeds bravely to a rescue and gets a proper cleaning at day’s end.
Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s “Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats” (Roaring Brook/Porter, ages 3-7), the fourth in the series starring these fast friends, arrives just in time for Halloween. Again, three short stories for new readers show the quirky characters and silly antics of the dog and stuffed bear whose misunderstandings lead to silly surprises.
And many happy returns to Virginia Lee Burton’s 75-year-old “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” (Houghton Mifflin, ages 3-6) and P.L. Travers’ 80-year-old “Mary Poppins” (a four-book collection from Houghton Mifflin, ages 6-10).