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Originally published Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 6:01 AM

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Picture books for summer break

Kids' Books: A roundup of new picture books includes "House Held Up By Trees," "Vote For Me!," "Chloe!," "Green," "The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?" and "Boy + Bot."

Scripps Howard News Service

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Check out some of these stellar new picture books — perfect for summer reading:

• Author/illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger has produced a masterpiece of picture-book art for the youngest readers in "Green" (Roaring Brook, $16.99, ages 2-6).

In less than three-dozen words, Seeger conveys a world in which one key color looms large. She explores the many shades of green, from forest green to pea green, and also delves into other aspects of the color, such as "faded green" and "shaded green."

But that's just the beginning. The seemingly simple text is also a rhyming text, something that is hard to do without sounding singsongy. But Seeger pulls it off with lyrical charm, while also offering an oh-so-subtle environmental message.

There's more, however. Each two-page spread features a specially placed die-cut or two connecting with the pages just before and after. For example, on the two-page spread with the words "sea green," there's a turtle with several round die-cuts showing its breathing bubbles. Turn the page, and those same die-cuts show small blemishes on a lime for "lime green."

Seeger's art is just spectacular. Her colors are lush and passionate, and her trademark artistic approach of thick coats of paint gives "Green" an immediacy and vibrancy that entrances the reader. There's so much to see, making "Green" perfect for repeated readings.

• The Pigeon is back, and he's NOT happy. How could he be happy when the Duckling is walking around with a cookie that is the Pigeon's favorite kind of cookie? In fact, the Pigeon gets outraged just thinking about how and why the Duckling has a cookie and he, the Pigeon, is cookie-less.

In "The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?" (Hyperion $15.99, ages 2-6), author/illustrator Mo Willems presents the latest chapter in his hilarious saga of the temperamental Pigeon. As always in the Pigeon books, any resemblance between the Pigeon and a toddler or preschooler is definitely by design, adding to the fun for both young readers and their tantrum-weary parents.

Willems' simple but energetic line drawings further exaggerate the story's inherent comedy, showing how the Pigeon's pique builds as he asks rhetorically: "But do I ever get what I ask for?" The answer comes in a two-page spread featuring a neon-outlined "no" in which the "o's" go on and on, as the word bursts from Pigeon's beak and twists around and around before literally knocking over the Duckling.

But there's a surprise in store for the Pigeon when the Duckling offers him the cookie, abruptly ending the Pigeon's blustering complaints. In a typical Willems twist, however, the story doesn't end there, and the eventual conclusion will leave readers in gales of giggles.

• Chloe's the middle child in her family of bunnies; she's got 10 older siblings and 10 younger siblings. So there is always a playmate at hand for Chloe's favorite activity — "family fun time."

Everything changes, however, when Chloe's dad brings home a big box containing a television set. Suddenly, all everyone wants to do is sit and watch TV, and Chloe fumes: "This is the worst family fun time EVER!"

But, as author/illustrator Peter McCarty details in "Chloe!" (HarperCollins, $16.99, ages 3-6), our heroine isn't giving up without a fight. With others staring at the television, Chloe and her sister Bridget find some Bubble Wrap in the box that contained the television and start popping it. The noise draws the other kids and soon everyone is popping Bubble Wrap and ignoring the television. Then they all start playing with the box itself, putting on their own shows. And so it goes until it's time for bed.

McCarty's point about non-TV fun is clear, but he doesn't bludgeon his readers with it. Instead, kids will be enthralled with the vivacious Chloe and her penchant for family fun. The softly drawn, detailed illustrations underline Chloe's energy and spunk, and also create a reassuring picture of family life.

Here are a few other outstanding new picture books:

• From the first sentence — "A boy was collecting pinecones in his wagon when he met a robot" — "Boy + Bot" (Knopf, $16.99, ages 3-6) will reel in young readers. Author Ame Dyckman and illustrator Dan Yaccarino make a great team as they describe the ups and downs of an unusual friendship.

• Politics is reduced to its lowest common — and comical — denomination in "Vote For Me!" (Kids Can Press, $16.95, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Ben Clanton. The two characters, a donkey and an elephant, each try to win readers' votes by trashing the other. The surprise denouement will delight young readers and elicit knowing nods from their parents.

• Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser tells a poignant story about the ravages of time in "House Held Up By Trees" (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 4-8). With ethereal, haunting illustrations by Jon Klassen, this memorable biography of a house will appeal to both young readers and adults.

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at

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