Pip and Squeak, By Ian Schoenherr, Greenwillow
It's hard to know what's most fun about this book: the mouse's-eye view of the world, the rollicking adventure, or the preschool-appropriate wordplay (moms and dads will smile, too). Regardless, this story has all three, beginning with its smile-producing opening: "Squeak pinched Pip, and Pip squeaked. 'We're late,' said Squeak. 'Don't forget the gift for Gus.' " Needless to say, the gift is forgotten, and hilarity – and much drama – ensue in the quest for a replacement offering. Will the mice find anything worth giving to Gus? Readers will have to wait until the very last page to discover this book's satisfying – though quite unexpected – payoff.
A Good Day, By Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow
Henkes gives away the ending of his latest offering in the title. Although, as readers will quickly discover, the day doesn't exactly start out that way; it starts out as anything but. There's lots to love about this book, from its winsome little animals to its colorful illustrations.
But what's especially sweet is not just the way Henkes gently resolves each of his creatures' crises; it's that his story conveys an understanding of the children for whom it's written. When you're little, it doesn't take much to make a good day turn bad. Thankfully, as Henkes conveys, it's even easier to turn that bad day into one that's not just good, but wonderful.
Little Donkey and the Birthday Present, By Rindert Kromhout, Illustrated by Annemarie van Haeringen, NorthSouth Books
For Frances the badger, it was a bar of chocolate. For Little Donkey it's a glorious kite. He and his mother have purchased it as a birthday gift for Little Yak, but Little Donkey can't help wishing he could keep it for himself. Whether or not readers are familiar with "A Birthday for Frances," they'll find plenty to delight in as they explore this fresh take on a timeless theme. Charming watercolors chronicle Little Donkey's path from resistance to grudging gift-giving. But readers needn't fret even if the protagonist does. Tucked away at the end of this story is a surprise that's sure to bring a smile to everyone's face – even Little Donkey's.
Fabian Escapes, By Peter McCarty, Henry Holt
Which is the better place to have an adventure: indoors or outdoors? For family pets Hondo the dog and Fabian the cat, each locale offers new smells, close encounters, and safe retreats, which provide an afternoon's worth of enjoyment – not to mention surprisingly parallel escapades. Caldecott Honor winner McCarty's soft-focus pencil drawings detail another simple but sweet tale of this dog and cat duo – two friends who, after a day's worth of excitement, are most happy just to be together again.