These new children's books offer a positive, fresh spin on a new start: the beginning of 2018.
"We're Going to Be Friends" by Jack White; illustrated by Elinor Blake; Third Man Books; 32 pages; $16.95.
Surprisingly penned by quirky rock star Jack White of The White Stripes, this zippy encouragement for making new friends is at once adorable and super cool. The band's hit song "We're Going to Be Friends" is penned, and Elinor Blake's retro illustrations give the tale an early Disney or Dick and Jane reader look. The story is about a little boy and girl who meet. "Here we are, no one else, we walked to school all by ourselves," reads the tale, and a black-and-white photo of a vintage school is behind them. When it comes to the lyrics "Walk with me, Suzy Lee/ Through the park and by the tree," the red-and white-clothed illustrated kids frolic with real donkeys and peppermint candies. The juxtaposition of actual photos, the whimsical vintage images upon a red-and-white backdrop, the sweet, timeless song and multicultural children make "We're Going to Be Friends" fresh and fabulous.
White's ode to sweet friendship is my favorite new book for the new year. It's both a throwback to another more innocent era and a modern approach to the timeless joy of childhood.
"Get on Your Bike" by Joukje Akveld and Philip Hopman; Eerdmans Books for Young Readers; 32 pages; $17.99.
Translated from Dutch, this fresh look at the way bicycling through the countryside can change a bad mood includes lots of lessons in looking on the bright side and appreciating others. When friends Bobby and William have an argument, William tells Bobby to just get on his bike and leave before the fight escalates. So Bobby rides, at first not knowing where to go but eventually enjoying his journey more than thinking about "pudding-headed William." As Bobby notices double-decker buses and mopeds and trees and frogs, he thinks less and less about all the stuff "stored away inside the junk room in his head." As he pedals briskly through the busy countryside full of other bicyclists, scooters and motorcycles, Bobby finds himself embarrassed about the argument and then returns to see William. They have dinner and plan a bike ride together.
Readers have lots to look at on these oversized, busy pages with a plethora of active creatures and vehicles from top to bottom. The story about putting anger on the back burner by getting outside and active is invaluable.
"Rot, the Cutest in the World!" by Ben Clanton; Simon & Schuster; 32 pages and 17.99.
Rot the mutant potato has a healthy amount of self-love and acceptance. When he enters the "Cutest in the World Contest," he finds some stiff competition in his adorable co-contestants -- an itty-bitty baby bunny, a little-wittle cuddly kitten and eenie-weenie jolly jellyfish. They make fun of the different-looking potato and strut their own more obvious assets with confidence.
Tots will love the hilarious surprise that the judges are also mutant weird, rotted fruits -- a banana, apple and pear -- that think Rot is "pear-fect" and bestow him the win. Quirky details add oomph, from Rot showing off his "best side" (his funny rear end), to the adorable jellyfish donning a unibrow just like Rot, after the potato wins the trophy.
This is a classic but updated and slightly odd tale that demonstrates beauty is in the eye of the beholder. "Rot" is a gem.
"Unplugged" by Steve Antony; Scholastic Press; 32 pages; $16.99.
Blip is a little square-headed robot that spends her days plugged in, visiting faraway places and playing games. Her world is gray, but she enjoys it. One day, though, there's a blackout. She becomes unplugged, trips over a wire and falls down the stairs and outside. Blip feels out of place in all the green and her new living friends, a deer, a duckling and a bunny. Blip learns new things -- she "played fun games, danced to music and visited faraway places." When the day is over, Blip has to sail back up a windy river and through the forest and say goodbye to her new friends.
Blip expects to be happy when she plugs back into her computer, but all she can think about is her new friends outside and how great it felt to be unplugged.
A gentle lesson in balancing digital diversions with the innate fun of being outside, "Unplugged" seems incredibly valuable for the new year.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.