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Review: New picture books from Simona Ciraolo, Marla Frazee and others

The Lines on Nana's Face

By Simona Ciraolo

Flying Eye Books, 40 pages, $25.95

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A little girl is celebrating with her family on her Nana's birthday. "I know she's happy," she says of her grandmother, "but sometimes it looks like she might also be a bit sad, and a little surprised, and slightly worried." With an inquisitive candour that's only really socially acceptable in the very young or very old, the girl asks Nana how she came to get so many expressive lines on her face. Nana uses the opportunity to explain that every wrinkle is attached to a memory, and the story swishes back in time to show the source of each one. Her crow's feet were caused by laughing too hard on a seaside picnic, and the creases on her forehead are the result of a first date at an amusement park. As the girl sits as a rapt audience for her Nana's storytelling, she learns that so-called imperfections are the result of life lived.

Roland

By Nelly Stéphane and André François

Enchanted Lion Books, 36 pages, $25.95

Originally published in France in 1958, this lush reprint breathes new life that feels as relevant here and now as it did there and then. When Roland is late for school one day, his teacher sends him to stand in the corner. Bored, Roland doodles a picture of a tiger on the wall. With a loud crack, the tiger comes to life. This puts Roland in more trouble, but as his predicament grows, so, too, does his imagination, letting more animals on the loose. The story rushes along, reaching new heights of absurdity with every page: Roland causes his classmate's fur coat to come to life, which sends him to jail, which results in a breakout masterminded by more furry critters. The pacing of the story will appeal to real-life Rolands; children who may not have the attention spans of their bookish counterparts, but who need as much as anyone a good story to sweep them up.

The Bossier Baby

By Marla Frazee

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Beach Lane Books, 40 pages, $23.99

A stand-alone sequel to Marla Frazee's The Boss Baby (about a solemn looking infant wearing a teeny-tiny necktie, controlling everyone around him with his high-strung ways), this follow-up is designed to appeal to older siblings not quite ready to share the attention. When his parents bring home his newborn sister, Boss Baby realizes he's been demoted. His infant sister, with her dark sunglasses and haughty expression, has titled herself CEO. The relationship between young siblings is a complicated and intense one filled with high-stakes competition, and Frazee's corporate metaphor captures the vibe perfectly. The Bossier Baby is filled with jokes designed to appeal primarily to parents (the perks of being the CEO Baby include "organic catering service," accompanied by a picture of her being breastfed), but the story is filled with expressive illustrations and visual gags that will entertain younger readers.

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