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Review: Kyo Maclear and Esmé Shapiro’s Yak and Dove, Lemony Snicket and Matthew Forsythe’s The Bad Mood and the Stick and Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s Sam & Eva

Yak and Dove

By Kyo Maclear and Esmé Shapiro

Tundra Books, 56 pages, $23

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Owing an obvious debt to tender buddy series Frog and Toad, Yak and Dove is an anthology about two animals who are so unalike they can only be best friends. In the book's first of three stories, If We Were Twins, the pair decide to go ahead and list their differences: Yak is large, Dove is small. Yak has fur, Dove has feathers. Then things get tense. Yak is smelly and has terrible taste in bow-ties, Dove is bossy. This leads to a natural segue into story No. 2, The Audition, when Yak decides to have all the other animals compete against one another in order to find a new best friend (you can guess how this one turns out). Sweet and just a little bit silly, and accompanied by Shapiro's enchanting watercolour illustrations, Maclear's latest captures the frustrating absurdities and lovely payoffs that come with the most intimate of friendships.

The Bad Mood and the Stick

By Lemony Snicket and Matthew Forsythe

Tundra Books, 48 pages, $23

The titular bad mood of this book is a grumpy-looking blob, a swirling cloud of muted colours that looks like a jar of dirty paintbrush water. At the beginning of the story, the Bad Mood is following around a girl named Curly, who is upset because she can't have any ice cream. Soon, Curly cheers up after poking her brother with a stick (the other supposed star of the story, who doesn't do much), but the Bad Mood doesn't go away; instead, it gets passed to Curly's disappointed mother. The Bad Mood never truly disappears. Years pass and it travels the world ("You yourself had it several times," goes the book). There's no real universal cure for it, but it never sticks with the same person for too long. A Bad Mood is the ultimate equalizer. The characters' actions are shown to have have consequences. What might cheer one person up can effectively hurt another – the Bad Mood is always looking for a new home.

Sam & Eva

By Debbie Ridpath Ohi

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Simon & Schuster, 40 pages, $24

Sam is just beginning to draw when Eva shows up (it appears he is using a blank wall as a canvas, an action that never has any consequences in this story; this is one of those delightful children's books where adults just straight-up don't exist). Eva tells Sam she likes the pony he is drawing; Sam replies that it's supposed to be a velociraptor. Eva wants to collaborate and adds her own paint to his drawing; Sam gets frustrated and wipes away her work. Their art begins to antagonize each other: Eva adds a marmoset, which is eaten by Sam's velociraptor, which is then attacked by Eva's pink blob of a bear. Their drawings get more elaborate and ridiculous as the children's competitiveness push them to their creative limits, adding rocketships and confetti explosions. As they get so wrapped up in trying to one-up each other, Sam completely forgets that he never wanted Eva there in the first place. Their friendly rivalry begets a certain type of co-operation, and both their creative selves are better for it.

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