For Young Readers
Lane Smith's "It's a Book" and Louise Yates's "Dog Loves Books"
By Lane Smith
Roaring Brook. $12.99. Ages 6-8
By Louise Yates
Knopf. $16.99. Ages 4-6
Authors who take books as their subjects may border on solipsistic, but then, who are their readers if not self-absorbed children? And pushing books rather than the latest product tie-ins can't be all bad. In the case of these two titles, it's actually all good. Lane Smith's hero is an urbane monkey-minus-the-tail who sports a polka-dotted shirt, a straw boater (concealing a surprise sidekick) and a book under his arm. His nemesis is a computer-savvy donkey -- a jackass -- who just doesn't understand what monkey's retro paper package is all about. " 'Can it text?' 'No.' 'Tweet?' 'No.' 'Wi-fi?' 'No.' " Donkey's gradual capitulation to the power of a real book is marked by both the hands of the clock (in a droll double-page time-lapse sequence) and the angles of his ears. But it's a mouse's final insouciant line that garners the biggest laugh.
While Lane Smith's monkey heads for the library, Louise Yates's book-loving dog takes a different tack and opens a bookstore. Alas, alack: Customers fail to flock. A silver-haired matron requests tea, and an elderly gent stops in for directions . . . but Dog is not downhearted because he loves books. "He loved the smell of them, and he loved the feel of them. He loved everything about them." He whiles away the time reading the stock, and when a young customer finally appears, he's able to recommend the perfect book to her because he's read them all! Even in these hectic electronic days, these two titles prove there's no substitute for the right book for the right child (or donkey) at the right time.
-- Kristi Jemtegaard