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Short Stack | Picture Book Picks

‘Around the Clock’ by Roz Chast; ‘Last Stop on Market Street’ by Matt de la Pena; ‘Coming Home’ by Greg Ruth


by Roz Chast (Atheneum Books for Young Readers $17.99, ages 4-8)

For kids, time can be a drag. Luckily Roz Chast has dreamed up a way to make the hours fly. In “Around the Clock” Chast imagines 24 hilarious situations with 23 different children: different as in odd. Take Deb: “From 9 to 10, Deb had forgotten: Are unicorns real, or are they notten?”; and deluded Lynn : “From 12 to 1, Lynn eats baloney with her imaginary friend, Tony.” These kids — with their googly eyes and fly-away hair — must be the offspring of the lovably neurotic adults from Chast’s New Yorker cartoons. Their nutty adventures might even inspire the creation of rhyming diversions the next time you’re stuck in line or snowed in.



by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson (Penguin $19.99, ages 3-5)

Everyone deserves a grandmother as chic and wise as the woman in “Last Stop on Market Street.” As CJ and his Nana travel across town by bus on Sunday after church the grandmother displays such grace that the boy does not realize that he is being gently schooled: in finding joy on the bus, in manners with their fellow passengers, in seeing beauty in a worn neighborhood. The sharp illustrations — in bold, and cheerful primaries — get CJ’s restless energy and curious postures exactly right. The voices of CJ and his grandmother carry the story along in subtle point and counterpoint so that at this book’s quiet close you feel like you’ve been listening to a song.


by Greg Ruth (Feiwel and Friends, $16.99, ages 4-7)

“Coming Home” is told in only 18 words. The time that elapses from the first page to the last can’t be more than an hour. Yet the tension Greg Ruth creates is greater than that generated by most full-length novels. As a boy in a red T-shirt anxiously scans the crowd gathered on a tarmac he sees all kinds of reunions between returning servicemen and women and their families: a dog runs into the arms of its owner; a man and a woman embrace; a man kneels to touch a pregnant woman’s belly. The muted colors, shifting perspectives, and artful compositions on each spread give readers the sense of the months and years that have come before the moments on the page. The answer to the question of who the boy has been waiting for is a surprise; his joy on the book’s last page could break your heart.
Nicole Lamy

Nicole Lamy can be reached at