“Two Dogs” by Ian Falconer

TWO DOGS
Written and illustrated by Ian Falconer

The creator of the “Olivia” books brilliantly portrays his theatrical experience as a set designer in this delightful feat of twin dachshunds who escape outside together when their humans leave them alone. Drawn in what looks like caramel pastels, Augie and Perry – a veritable vaudeville act of opposing personalities – gaze through the glass of a charcoal door frame into a garden that looks like a hyper-realistic color photograph, a playground diorama with lime green grass so perfect, it’s certainly artificial. Before we know it, our animated canines have jumped into an elaborate set: paradise, with a pool. This impeccably choreographed ballet is sure to get screams of “Encore! Encore!”

40 pp. Michael di Capua/HarperCollins. $18.99. (Age 4 to 8)

ELEPHANT ISLAND
Written and illustrated by Leo Timmers

After swimming for his life, an elephant whose boat was sunk by a “rambunctious” wave reaches a “little island” – a rock barely big enough to stand on. One by one, small animals come in small craft to ‘rescue’ him. Every time he “puts his foot in it,” sinks the ship as he steps aboard, and every time he tries his best to “save the situation,” he gleefully adds a new companion to his pocket-sized space. In yet another triumphant experiment for the award-winning Timmers, his medium – here different types of sponges, razor blades and paint rollers to create different types of textures – is the ultimate embodiment of his message: “the magic of happy accidents.”

48 pp. Gecko. $18.99. (Age 2 to 6)

KNIGHT OWL
Written and illustrated by Christopher Denise

In his first solo outing, Denise combines stellar, deadpan puns with an old masters-style chiaroscuro technique that’s pure derring-do – a perfect fit for a book about a little owl with big ambitions. Although Owl lifts even the tiniest shield to fall backwards, and he “has a habit of dozing off during the day,” his chivalry will charm even the most raging dragons among us.

48 pp. Christy Ottaviano/Little, Brown. $17.99. (Age 4 to 8)

NORTON AND THE BEAR
Written and illustrated by Gabriel Evans

The conceit that makes this book’s premise – harrowing comic tension between an “exceptionally unique” dog and an imitator bear – succeed so spectacularly is the setting, a world in which fully clothed two-legged animals interact seamlessly with people. A hen with a briefcase watches with neighborhood kids as a beret-wearing cheetah juggles in the street; a fox talks to a girl in a cafe; a turtle in a suit carries a lunch bag on his way to work. Norton and the bear don’t just seem human; they are human. And clothes don’t make the animal.

32 pp. Berbay. $17.99. (Age 3 to 6)

ARMADILLO ANTICS
Written by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson.
Illustrated by Nathalie Beauvois.

One of many collaborations between Martin (“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”) and his good friend and fellow literacy expert Sampson that went unpublished at Martin’s death in 2004, “Armadillo Antics ” is a tribute to the night creatures who roamed the woods outside their homes in Commerce, Texas. It is this nocturnal aspect that the talented Argentine collagist Beauvois captures so beautifully. Though heavily influenced by Eric Carle’s painted paper style, Beauvois’ brushstrokes are rougher, her textures more elevated, her backgrounds darker. And sometimes – yes, it’s true – she intentionally errs.

32 pages. Brown books. $18.99. (Age 2 to 5)


Jennifer Krauss is the children’s book editor of the Book Review.

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