Picture books for young readers

A cat, a cowboy, and some sleepy pigs

What Will Fat Cat Sit On?By Jan ThomasHarcourt

As premises for picture books go, this one's fairly simple. In Jan Thomas's What Will Fat Cat Sit On?, Fat Cat needs a seat, and no one in the cast of wide-eyed supporting barnyard animals wants to be his chosen resting place. The preschool-appropriate suspense comes to a head when Cat turns his attention to Mouse … and the author serves up a surprise ending that's sure to evoke a laugh. Textual repetition and animal sounds make this a perfect book for the younger set. But the real treat, for kids and adults alike, is Thomas's artwork, which brings her story to life with bold colors – and a big dose of humor.

Cowboy and OctopusBy Jon ScieszkaIllustrated by Lane SmithViking

The friendship between title characters Cowboy and Octopus has all the sweetness of that between a certain well-known frog and toad – as well as the zaniness readers have come to expect from author Jon Scieszka. In this collection of stories, the two friends build a boat, share a knock-knock joke, and evaluate each other's taste in haberdashery (among other adventures). Meanwhile, sharp-eyed readers can spot an artistic cohesiveness between the book's title page and its very western conclusion, with lots more mixed media fun along the way.

Waking Up WendellBy April StevensIllustrated by Tad HillsSchwartz & Wade

In this tale, equal parts counting book and cheerful cacophony, a songbird's morning warble sets off a parade of noises – and rouses an entire neighborhood from bed. In fussy Mrs. Musky's house (where there's a chandelier in the kitchen), it's the teakettle that adds to the ruckus. Down the block, where the seven Darjeelings all share a bed (and someone's reading a book called "Train your cat"), it's the family feline who ushers in the new day with a percussive "Wack-slam!" The only one delighted by the din? That would be baby Wendell at house #10 – not to mention every reader fortunate enough to enjoy this feast for the eyes and ears.

At NightBy Jonathan BeanFarrar, Straus & Giroux

Not since the classic "Goodnight Moon" has a book so perfectly captured the hush of bedtime. But unlike "Goodnight Moon," the main character in At Night isn't soothed by the sleepy noises of her own little room. Instead, she sets up camp on her rooftop in the city, where she can feel part of "the wide world around her." Bean's watercolors complement the tone of his text beautifully, and who can say which image is the most comforting at the close of this book: the picture of watchful Mom, who's followed her daughter to the roof, or the moon, shining down softly on both of them from above?

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