Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr): Vroom! by Barbara McClintock

Caspian Finds a Friend

In Jacqueline Véissid (Ruby's Sword) and Merrilees Brown's Caspian Finds a Friend, Caspian lives in a lighthouse "surrounded by a cold gray-blue sea." Every night the lonely boy "casts his light out into the darkness, searching... but no one arrives, just the sea and the skies." One day, Caspian decides to take his happiness into his own hands and launches a plea into the ocean by way of the proverbial message in a bottle. "Days sink into weeks, weeks into months. He waits and waits, his hopes bobbing like a bottle on waves." When Caspian receives a response, he sets out on a voyage across the murky waters, the stars splashed against the sky "illuminating the darkness." At the other end of the sea, a furry friend with "warm and gentle" eyes lies in wait.

Véissid's lilting, rhythmic text calls to mind the rocking of waves. Brown's luminous illustrations digitally combine oil paint, relief print and charcoal to bring to life textured landscapes, poignant facial expressions and extraordinary spreads that take readers on a wondrous visual journey. As the narrative grows more hopeful, her art shifts from darker, melancholic shades to lighter, more cheerful tints, her palette of mostly turquoise, white and red giving Caspian's world a hyperreal, otherworldly feel. Kids will likely delight in Brown's illustrative details, such as the rainbow fish that seem to follow Caspian wherever he goes. Véissid's words and Brown's images combine in Caspian Finds a Friend to create a moving picture book that speaks to our need for connection, and encourages us to use our ingenuity to find it. --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library