Among the thunderous herd of new and recent children’s picture albums, three very different adventure stories spark the imagination and inspire empathy.
“Finding Fire” by Logan S. Kline (Candlewick Press, September 13), ages 4-8, 40 pages, $18.99, hardcover.
Wordless books are great solo entertainment for children who can’t read yet (see, for example, “Stormy” by Guojing and “Mr. Wuffles” by David Wiesner).
Here, beautifully detailed, lovingly detailed and naturalistic cartoons wordlessly convey an epic of youthful heroism. The only text is a prologue: “Long before the secrets of fire were discovered, people had to find fire. And if they lost it…if it died out…someone would need ‘seek more.’
We see a scruffy prehistoric family standing dumbfounded around their flooded campfire. Next, we see the noisy family argument. Outside the cave, a skinny, red-haired child volunteers to fetch fire.
He bravely embarks on what becomes an arduous parade of sharp perils. Along the way, he rescues an adorable baby juggernaut from a tar pit, and they bond.
This is Kline’s first children’s book, although his illustrations have appeared in magazines like Highlights and Cricket. He teaches high school art in upstate New York. He says his two sons inspired his nervous, wild-haired, likeable hero.
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“Gold!” by David Shannon (Viking, September 6), ages 3-7, 40 pages, $18.99 hardcover.
The latest work from a prolific author of award-winning children’s stories redefines King Midas as a bug-eyed, big-headed, and very selfish boy.
Painted in bold, bright colors, Maximilian Midas was born with a fixation on acquiring gold that goes against his parents’ earnest attempts to socialize him. He misses hugs and books; he cheats on tests; but he makes a bundle selling lemonade.
Soon he has more money than his parents. He makes them pay rent.
He ruins a competing lemonade vendor using dirty tricks, then accumulates more and more money. He’s only 7 years old but his golden mansion teeters on top of a glittering mountain.
He’s just horrible, until he decides to eat his gold. It has an unexpected and awkward magical effect that won’t surprise adults familiar with ancient Greek tales.
The rest of the story resolves in the usual way with the redemption and upbringing of a boy that feelings matter.
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“Everywhere With You,” written by Carlie Sorosiak, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth (Walker Books, May 24), ages 4-8, 40 pages, $18.99 hardcover.
In Carlie Sorosiak’s little domestic adventure for animal lovers, a neighbor takes an interest in the neglected dog next door. Reaching through the fence that separates their courtyards, she offers treats every day and reads storybooks aloud. Dreamlike adventure tales in bold colors unfold.
But one autumn day, the girl does not show up. There is no explanation. The dog searches for her in vain. When night falls, he looks through the hole in his fence and sees his family lit up at their window, playing together, and he begins to cry. She hears it and rushes in, and they share the happiest story ever, about a collapsing fence.
A few days later, in a violent storm, the dog heads for his door, where he is welcomed, adopted and loved.
Devon Holzwarth’s paintings sweep and sway with floral texture, and there’s something delightfully nostalgic about the pointed nose and curving body of her spotted dog.
[Bookcovers not showing? Click here to see them: arkansasonline.com/919read]
Gallery: Read Me, September 19