By PAMELA PAUL
Published: March 13, 2013
Sergio Ruzzier’s illustrations always manage to be soft and fluffy and kind toward children — without slipping into saccharine gauziness. In two new picture books, one written and illustrated by Ruzzier, the other written by Eve Bunting, Ruzzier’s spare pen-and-ink pictures charmingly enliven animal stories in just the way preschoolers like.
BEAR AND BEE
Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
48 pp. Disney-Hyperion Books. $14.99. (Picture book; ages 2 to 6)
HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW BLUE SOCKS?
By Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
32 pp. Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $16.99. (Picture book; ages 3 to 7)
Both tales concern befuddled yet lovable animals, trying to bumble their way out of confusing circumstances. The pleasure for young listeners is getting to laugh at these characters, while at the same time feeling at once superior to and affectionate toward them. Isn’t it comforting to know that other creatures forget things, make mistakes and generally have the wrong idea?
For example, children derive great pleasure from those moments when a grown-up who can’t lay hands on his hat or keys or gloves finds the missing object close at hand. In “Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?,” observant readers will notice halfway through that the hapless green duck is wearing his sought-after socks inside his shoes; they’ve just kind of sunk below the heel. (Come on, it’s happened to you.) This isn’t the only story to make much of this particular silly-goose premise; another new picture book, “Mister Whistler,” by Margaret Mahy and Gavin Bishop, concerns a man whose lost train ticket is held all the while between his teeth.
In this bighearted landscape, everyone wants to help and no one is made to feel stupid or foolish — even at the inevitable moment of epiphany. As they did in their earlier book, “Tweak, Tweak,” Bunting and Ruzzier work together well, capturing preschool fears and uncertain sentiments but, in the end, making it all O.K.
While “New Blue Socks” is about mishap, “Bear and Bee” is about misunderstanding. […]
When Bee points out that Bear actually fits this description, the stunned beast is forced to confront reality. “Poor me!” he wails. “I am a bee!” Ever the busy helper, Bee points out the error in Bear’s thinking. All is cleared up, honey is shared, friends are made. On the surface, this is a simpler tale than “Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?” though young readers who still haven’t completely distinguished their bears from their bees may be as mystified as Bear. But it does all get sorted out, sweetly, in the end.