Two new picture books with expertly crafted illustrations encourage young readers to venture off the path.
In Susanna Mattiangeli’s The Hideout, a young girl named Hannah decides to live in the park. Topping off her orange hair with a raccoon hat, Hannah sets up a shelter amid the dense foliage. She’s not alone, though. After finding an Odd Furry Creature, she shares her secret hideout, making them each a bed out of leaves and matching capes out of feathers.
Together, they relish their time in the wild, eating biscuit cookies, roasting pigeons on the campfire and collecting caterpillars, sticks and other bits. But what does this Odd Furry Creature even look like? Illustrator Felicita Sala’s intriguing watercolor and colored pencil illustrations slowly reveal its unusual features, from its talon fingers to its fluffy blue tail. Sala also conveys the differences between the quiet and increasingly overgrown vines of the hideout and the bustling activity in the rest of the park.
Although Hannah enjoys her undisturbed time with the Odd Furry Creature, she also realizes that time spent with dogs, balloons and people is also important. She leads her new companion out of the thicket and into the brightly lit park, but when an adult calls to her again, the story ends with Hannah back in her bedroom. With a fine blend of imagination and friendship, Hannah’s adventure is reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are.
Once there was a river that flowed through a forest. But it didn’t know it was a river until Bear came along. When Bear’s tree-trunk perch snaps, it sends Bear floating down the river on the log, but he doesn’t know it’s the start of an adventure until Froggy hops on him. Thus begins Richard T. Morris’s uproarious Bear Came Along. The fun continues as Bear and Froggy are joined by the Turtles, Beaver, the Raccoons and Duck. Encouraged by the river’s twists and turns—and Beaver’s captain skills—they don’t know to be cautious until a waterfall comes along.
As the woodland animals hold onto one another, they survive the fall, enjoy the ride and realize that although they sometimes live separately, they all rely on one another. Illustrator LeUyen Pham’s watercolor, ink and gouache illustrations show the animals’ exaggerated expressions, which add to the hilarity and tension leading up to the waterfall, and the details in the patterned landscape offer an enriched reading experience.
The opening endpapers offer a black-and-white panoramic view of the story ahead. As children turn the pages, they’ll notice more and more colors as each animal arrives. The final scene and endpapers burst with colors as nature thrives together. Many humans will find plenty to learn about friendship and community from these spirited animals.