March 2018

March’s Big Picture

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

by Brian Selznick and David Serlin; illustrated by Brian Selznick

Crisp staccato text sets the tone of this accessible detective tale right from the pre– table of contents start: “WAIT!/ Who is Baby Monkey?/” As you can guess, “He is a baby./ He is a monkey.” Sure, but did you know “He has a job”? And that, as revealed by a full-bleed spread of his old-timey office door, he is “Baby Monkey, Private Eye”? Well, now you do, and now new readers are hooked.

Baby Monkey is the unlikely gumshoe in five spare and speedy cases. Each time, somebody comes to Baby Monkey’s detective office because something has gone missing (someone has stolen the Wagnerian soprano’s jewels, or the floppy- hatted chef ’s pizza). The actual case is less important than Baby Monkey’s ritual step-by step process, in that same punchy one-phrase-per-spread rhythm: unsurprisingly, he looks for clues and takes notes, but he also, just as importantly, eats a snack and puts on his pants, a very challenging procedure that has a few slapstick failures and takes several pages to complete. Our fed and clothed sleuth then strides forth to find the miscreant, invariably a critter who has carelessly left a trail of footprints, and ties up the perpetrator and the case: “Hooray for Baby Monkey!” On the last case, the client turns out to be somebody who has lost her baby—and that’s an easy case to solve, since the client is Baby Monkey’s own mother.

The small trim size suggests an early reader, while the internal design teeters between that and picture book. The main-text font is huge, on thick glossy pages, with only a few words per page so that kids get the satisfaction of flipping quickly, and those page turns effectively structure the tightly measured pacing, giving each sentence its own visual drumbeat. Repetition of words (most sentences start with “Baby Monkey,” and readers will quickly pick up on Baby’s ritual preparations) brings this within reach of timid readers, while the absurdity expands the appeal (readers will appreciate the comic deterioration of Baby Monkey’s routine as he gets sleepy and nods off in the middle of finding the astronaut’s spaceship).

Selznick illustrates with his familiar soft yet confident pencil drawings, monochromatic save for the purloined item set off with red in the concluding scene of each chapter. The art offers some broad comedy in the over-the-top clients and some fine humor of scale as Baby Monkey hauls around his humongous magnifying glass. It’s the detailed full spreads, however, that stop the show and cinematically change the pace, especially the ones set in Baby Monkey’s atmospheric office. The chapter-opening spreads are a particular delight, as Baby Monkey’s office is bedecked with items foreshadowing that particular mystery (for the jewel heist, he’s curled up on his sofa reading Famous Jewel Crimes, and art on the walls features famous opera singers—and a poster for the Marx brothers’ A Night at the Opera).

Those layered details are key to the multi-audience charm of Baby Monkey. Young readers can share this with older kids, who will catch the foreshadowing and appreciate the ridiculousness, and adult reading partners will relish the de- tailed end matter that explains the Easter eggs in Baby Monkey’s office, provides a completely fictionalized bibliography, and offers a comically detailed index. The book is therefore a delight for reading together or alone, and the weight of the volume will provide considerable satisfaction to novice readers, who can congratulate themselves for having finished a thick book. Hooray for Baby Monkey!

Deborah Stevenson, Editor

Art from Baby Monkey, Private Eye © 2018 by Brian Selznick, used by permission of Scholastic Press.

March Stars

ALMOND, DAVID      The Tale of Angelino Brown; illus. by Alex T. Smith.     Candlewick, 2018     [272p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-9563-7     $16.99
Reviewed from galleys     R*    Gr. 4-8

BAGIEU, PÉNÉLOPE     Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World; written and illus. by Pénélope Bagieu; tr. from the French from Montana Kane.     First Second, 2018     304p
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-868-4     $24.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-869-1     $17.99     R*          Gr. 8-12

DE FOMBELLE, TIMOTHÉE     The Book of Pearl; tr. from the French by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Gordon.     Candlewick, 2018     [368p]
ISBN 978-0-7636-9126-4     $17.99
Reviewed from galleys          R*     Gr. 7-10

ERNSHAW, SHEA      The Wicked Deep.     Simon Pulse, 2018     [320p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-9734-3    $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-9736-7     $10.99
Reviewed from galleys          R*     Gr. 8-12

HARTMAN, RACHEL     Tess of the Road.    Random House, 2018     [544p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93129-5     $21.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93128-8    $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-101-93130-1     $10.99
Reviewed from galleys          R*     Gr. 10-12

KILLEEN, MATT     Orphan Monster Spy.    Viking, 2018     [368p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-451-47873-3    $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-451-47874-0    $10.99
Reviewed from galleys         R*     Gr. 9-12

POSTON, ASHLEY     Heart of Iron.     Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2018     [480p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-265285-0   $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-265287-4     $9.99
Reviewed from galleys          R*     Gr. 9-12

QUALEY, MARSHA     Gracie LaRoo at Pig Jubilee; illus. by Kristyna Litten.     Capstone, 2018     [128p]     (Gracie LaRoo) Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5158-1442-9    $15.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-5158-1458-0   $5.95
Reviewed from galleys          R*     Gr. 1-3

SELZNICK, BRIAN     Baby Monkey, Private Eye; by Brian Selznick and David Serlin; illus. by Brian Selznick.     Scholastic, 2018     [192p]
ISBN 978-1-338-18061-9     $16.99
Reviewed from galleys          R*     Gr. 1-3