What happens when a tapir from the Malaysian jungle accidentally lands in the big city? The unexpected! Mango Allsorts, a multi-talented young girl, rescues the frightened creature from the black-and-white striped crosswalk where he’s camouflaged himself. Although the terrified crowd thinks he’s a mutant sewer pig, Mango takes him home for banana pancakes with syrup and whipped cream. And so begin the adventures of Mango & Bambang, the Not-a-Pig (Candlewick, $14.99). Polly Faber’s delightful story of an unusual friendship is humorous and touching, while Clara Vulliamy’s expressive black-and-white-and-purple illustrations perfectly capture each funny and surprising moment. This is not your typical tapir-in-the-big-city trope. Ages 6-9.
Annabelle’s quiet life in 1943 rural Pennsylvania takes a sudden turn when Betty Glengarry arrives. Betty was sent to Wolf Hollow (Dutton, $16.99) to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible.” Cruel and manipulative, she bullies Annabelle and most of the other children. When Betty suddenly disappears, the town suspects Toby, Wolf Hollow’s itinerant World War I veteran. Although Toby may be quiet and strange, eleven-year-old Annabelle knows that he is also gentle and kind, and she determines to defend him. Author Lauren Wolk examines the unexpected consequences of telling the truth and telling lies, how appearances can be deceiving, and how difficult it can be to stand up for what’s right. Wolk’s beautiful and evocative writing conjures a past time and place, but the themes of courage and justice have timeless relevance. Ages 10-12.
Although he designed an open-heart surgical procedure for infants and children, Vivien Thomas had to instruct Dr. Alfred Blalock from a stool as Blalock performed the operation. Thomas had dreamed of becoming a doctor, but it was 1944 and he was African American. Instead, Thomas worked as Blalock’s research technician. After their move to Johns Hopkins, Blalock asked Thomas to investigate how to save “blue babies,” infants who were born with a fatal heart defect that made their skin look bluish. In addition to adapting a procedure that he and Blalock had perfected, Thomas created a needle short enough to perform the delicate surgery requiring Tiny Stitches (Lee and Low, $17.95). Author Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrator Colin Bootman relate the inspiring true story of a medical pioneer who faced racism head-on to save thousands of lives. Ages 7-10.