‘The New Small Person’ by Lauren Child and ‘Growing Up Pedro’ by Matt Tavares
The New Small Person
by Lauren Child, Candlewick, $17.99, ages 4-8
I really feel for the parents of Elmore Green, star of “The New Small Person” by Lauren Child. After they bring home a new baby — the “new small person” — Elmore freezes out his sibling for what seems to be about 2½ years. I have heard of such behavior in real life, but I have never seen this much rivalry in a picture book. Even Lily in Kevin Henke’s “Julius, the Baby of the World” and Peter from Ezra Jack Keats’s “Peter’s Chair” allow love for their new siblings to creep into their hearts more quickly. I’ll give Elmore this: The new small person is annoying. He licks all of the jelly beans from Elmore’s prized collection and protests nosily when he doesn’t like Elmore’s favorite TV show. It really isn’t hard to see things from Elmore’s perspective because Child, best known for her Charlie and Lola series, does. The illustrations — a gorgeous mix of photo-collage and sketchy pen line with attitude never shows adults above their waists. Although the adults’ lower bodies are fabulously mod — over-the-knee boots and swinging graphic print
A-line skirts — Child is all about the kids and their relationship. The thaw, when it finally comes, begins with a surprising role reversal. In the end, the new bond feels extra warm because of the chill that blew through all the previous pages.
Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares, Candlewick, $16.99, ages 8-12
Nonfiction biographies for children can be deadly dull. There have been a few notable exceptions over the past few years — including 2 (!) picture books about Jane Goodall — “Me Jane” by Patrick O’Connell and “The Watcher” by Jeanette Winter. Two other books, both by Jennifer Berne, “Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau” and “On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein” stretched the genre, too, by bringing their subjects to life through ideas instead of sticking to a plodding chronology.
“Growing Up Pedro” is meant for slightly older kids — those with an avid interest in baseball — but this biography also works so well because Tavares doesn’t bind the story to stats or life events; at the heart of the book is the relationship between the Hall-of-Famer-elect and the other Martinez family ace, Ramon — the older brother that Pedro idolizes. Tracing the development of both brothers’ lives and careers from the Dominican Republic to the major leagues the book ends with the first season that the brothers played together on the Red Sox. The paintings that illustrate the text — both precise and soft — capture the texture of life in the Dominican Republic, but also manage to evoke the iconic images of Pedro on the mound that will be strikingly familiar to adult baseball fans.