By John Rocco
Disney/Hyperion. $16.99. Ages 4-8
Velvety blue endpapers introduce this tale of an all-too-common summer event: the sudden absence of electricity. John Rocco begins his story with a busy family. “MUCH TOO BUSY.” But when the glowing lights of the city — skyscrapers, bridges, apartment buildings — wink out without warning, only a pair of very round eyes framed by spidery pigtails is left peering out at the reader. “The city was dark and quiet . . . and still.” Rarely do we focus on the wonderful stillness that follows such an unexpected event, yet into that silence creeps a whole different sense of the world. Instead of TV, there are shadow pictures on the wall; instead of video games, there are board games by flashlight. And then there are the stars, luminous in the newly blackened sky. Firemen arrive to open the hydrants, an ice cream vendor hands out free cones, and a sandal-clad couple serenades what has now become a block party. A common event to be sure, but Rocco’s gorgeous illustrations, full of shadows and silhouettes, illuminate it and make it glow.
Postcards from the Vacation
By Mark Teague
Blue Sky. $16.99. Ages 5-9
This fourth epistolary picture book featuring Mrs. Gertrude LaRue’s loquacious letter-writing canine, Ike, finds him (as always) with his dog biscuit planted firmly in his furry cheek. Also back for a repeat performance are two cantankerous cats, last featured in Ike’s dramatic (if chaotic) stint as a private eye (“Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation”). When a freak heat wave sends poor Leona Hibbins to the hospital, Gertrude agrees to revise her vacation plans and include Leona’s two cats on a cross-country car trip, much to Ike’s irritation since he had been counting on a leisurely cruise to Mexico. From Wompasconsett, Conn., to Minnebuckbuck, Mich., Ike records their adventures in vivid, if not exactly accurate, detail scrawled on postcards to the sly felines’ absent owner. And if Ike and his itinerant companions eventually wind up aboard the S.S. Mermaid . . . well, let’s just say that opportunity trumps veracity, and that’s a fact.
By Jennifer Sattler
Bloomsbury. $14.99. Ages 4-7
What would summer be without a trip to the beach, a pebble that resembles an eyeball, and “a shell that might be an actual shark’s tooth”? Only the mysterious appearance of an orphaned surfboard could possibly top this picture of perfection. And that’s exactly what happens to Fergus and his baby brother, Dink, who are busy collecting treasures at the ocean’s edge. Fergus and Dink, who, by the way, are pigs, promptly name the surfboard “Dave”and drag their booty high up onto dry land. It’s not that they’re afraid of the surf, exactly, but there’s always the “lurking, murky ickiness factor of the water” to take into consideration. Jennifer Sattler’s sun-drenched beachscapes sweep across the pages, a-bubble with foamy fantasy, and her big-eyed, flat-snouted porcine heroes with their sailboat-sized ears are guaranteed giggle-makers. Does Dave lead the pigs to further adventures? Of course! And the treasure at the end of the trip is the story itself.