‘I Don’t Want to Be Big’

By Dev Petty

You can’t ignore the allure of “I Don’t Want to Be Big,” by Dev Petty. Illustrations in bold colors by Mike Boldt pop, and the title is sure to win kids over.

It’s the hoppingly-funny tale of a frog that doesn’t want to get bigger and details why in speech bubbles, as his dad tries to get him to eat his dinner, a bowl of slime swimming with insects, a worm dangling over the edge.

If you get bigger, “When does it stop?” the little frog asks. His dad states, “You can’t stay small forever.”

“An ant stays small forever,” the little frog replies.

“So now you want to be an ant?” daddy frog counters.

The verbal sparing continues as daddy suggests growing has its advantages, like reaching things that are tall, and the opportunity to get up close and personal with tree frogs, but the little frog says he has his dad and friends to lift him up. And who needs to meet tree frogs?

“What’s so bad about being BIG anyway?” daddy frog asks, looking a bit beaten-down.

“If I grow big, I’ll miss the legroom. Or hit my head on things. And do elephants win at hide-and-seek?” A laugh-out-loud illustration proves the pint-sized frog’s point, a pachyderm’s body protruding from the sides of a skinny tree.

A pig is introduced next, but his clever comebacks aren’t convincing either.

Finally daddy frog realizes what the problem is and makes a point his offspring can’t dismiss. Parental wisdom wrapped in humor give this book high marks, the follow up to “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog,” both featuring a croaker as troublesome as a tilted lily pad.

‘The Quest for Z, The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and A Lost City in the Amazon’

By Greg Pizzoli

If the kids in your life like adventure and a hero with insurmountable courage they’ll relish “The Quest for Z, the True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon.” This text-rich picture book by Greg Pizzoli is as thrilling as it is inspiring.

The story details the life of Fawcett, a British explorer, who, against all odds, cut his way through the Brazilian rainforest “less than 100 years ago,” to map the uncharted land and find proof that an ancient city he dubbed “Z” once existed. “He made finding ‘Z’ his life’s work.”

As a boy, Fawcett had an inborn desire to explore. After serving in the armed forces in present-day Sri Lanka for 10 years, he returned to England and joined the Royal Geographical Society, where “he learned to survive in the wild.”

Fawcett was in the right place at the right time — the president of the Society needed someone to survey the borders of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, and he hired Fawcett to lead an expedition. He was hooked, and retuned to the Amazon eight times, experiencing grave danger from spear-wielding native peoples, snakes, insects that bore diseases and flesh-eating fish in the Amazon.

Fawcett’s drive and dream make for a captivating read, complimented by cartoon-like illustrations, sidebars, maps and more. Recommend this crowd-pleaser to young readers in second through fifth grade, and older. They’re sure to thank you.

‘Joplin, Wishing’

By Diane Stanley

In the beginning of “Joplin, Wishing,” by Diane Stanley, we meet 11-year-old Joplin, a girl struggling to understand her mother, and trying to deal with social problems at school.

Joplin, her mother, and her mother’s long time friend, who Joplin calls Aunt Jen, have driven to Maine from their home in New York City to sort through Joplin’s grandfather’s things, following his recent death. For years Joplin’s mother has been estranged from her father, Martin J. Camrath, a famous writer Joplin hardly knew.

Joplin’s mother is anxious to bring back boxes of writing that her father hadn’t published, and as she loads up the car, she tells Joplin to take something from his home as a memento.

It’s difficult at first, but Joplin finally comes across an old sealed tin, with pieces of fine china inside, “Blue designs painted on white . . . perfect little works of art. Each fragment . . . a small part of a bigger picture . . . bits of trees, the heads of some geese, a tiny windmill, part of a dress, part of a girl’s face.”

Once the plate is repaired, the image on the plate becomes clear — a girl from Holland, who impacts Joplin’s life in strange and wonderful ways. When Joplin wishes for a friend, not one, but two materialize, a quiet, lone girl she discovers outdoors, and a boy in her class who loves books about Sherlock Holmes.

The three young people will need courage and the cunning wiles of detectives to deal with an evil man who wants to wrest the plate from Joplin, a plate that holds the key that might bring closure to Joplin’s family, and peace to a girl from their past.

“Joplin, Wishing” is a fascinating meld of realistic fiction, fantasy and magic — a marvelous read for 8- to 12-year-olds.