“Philomena’s New Glasses”

By Brenna Maloney

Specs lead to spats in “Philomena’s New Glasses” by Brenna Maloney, the tale of three adorable guinea pig sisters shown in a series of fun-filled photographs.

Philomena, Audrey and Nora Jane have a bad case of sibling rivalry — each sis wants what the other has. The premise is comical, but the book has undertones that smack of the truth.

The barbs fly when Philomena gets glasses. Purple and hip, they transform her vision from blurry to clear. Audrey is envious — and follows suit, leaving Philomena flummoxed and accusatory, “You don’t need glasses,” she quips.

To appease her, Audrey pushes her specs on top of her head, where they stay. Next, Nora Jane pipes in. Her vision’s fine, but she’d like to have glasses too, and opts for a white pair.

A purse is a necessity when you wear glasses — every girly guinea pig knows that. Soon Philomena sports a snazzy bag from a boutique, adorned with butterflies. Imagine how that makes Audrey feel? She needs a purse too, something to stash her green glasses in; a green bag fits the bill.

Nora Jane isn’t a snacker and claims her arms are too short for a handbag but she can’t let sisters get ahead of her; she nabs a polka dot purse and sticks a few carrots inside for a punch of color.

Of course the girls have to have outfits to go along with their accessories and the hilarity continues in a clever picture book perfect for kids in preschool-second grade. Besides being entertaining, it provides insight on how things don’t always have to be even-steven.

“Tinyville Town, Time for School!”

By Brian Biggs

“Tinyville Town, Time for School!” is the newest book in a series set in Tinyville Town, a community-minded place created by author/illustrator Brian Biggs. Cartoon-like illustrations, a simple story line and lots of characters with real-life jobs make these books appealing.

Tinyville is humming because school is starting — “Good morning! It’s time to wake up,” the book begins, an illustration accompanying the introduction to this happy place where happy people live, streets and blocks crowded with brightly-colored buildings children will be able to pick out and identify.

On opening day, Mr. Meyer, a teacher, picks out his “nicest sweater,” and Dylan “ties his favorite shoes,” while “Jenny packs her brand-new book bag.” At the corner, patrolwoman Mrs. Martinez waits for students on a morning she’s been “waiting for . . . all summer long.”

Readers are able to follow each of these characters at school, as well as others who arrive on the bus, in carpools, on foot or on bikes. The principal, Ms. Parker greets students and steers them in the right direction, gently admonishing Owen to “return that library book you borrowed last year.”

Mr. Meyer writes his name on the blackboard and looks spiffy in his argyle sweater, greeting Ellie as she takes a seat in his classroom. Lessons begin, then lunch is served and of course there’s time for playground activities before children head for home.

All aspects of school are introduced in this charmer making it a grand gift for a child who’s apprehensive about the unknown – “Tinyville” is a sure-cure for first-day school jitters.

‘Roll’

By Darcy Miller

Lauren is a boy with a girl’s name. That’s his first problem. His second is being short. In a heartfelt and original book by Darcy Miller, both Lauren’s stature and his name cause him trouble with bullies at school.

Lauren, called Ren for short, was named after his late grandfather, a Navy Seal. He is no longer living, and neither is his grandmother, who passed away more recently.

Her death prompts Lauren’s family to move into Ren’s grandparents’ house, located outside of town. This move isn’t popular with Ren; he enjoyed being near his best friend Aiden and being able to hang out with him, not needing an adult to drive them to visit each other.

Not long after Ren’s family relocates, he notices some birds flying in a strange fashion, circling and rolling in flight. This is Ren’s introduction to Birmingham Rollers, a unique breed of pigeon raised to compete in races.

The birds are put through their paces by an edgy girl with red hair striped with yellow and orange, and shorts she’s drawn on with a Sharpie. Sutton Davies has just moved to Minnesota from Washington, D.C. Her father used to take the Rollers to competitions, but he’s laid up with an injury and so Sutton is training them.

Ren is in training too, getting ready to compete on his school’s cross-country team, a goal his father wants for him more than Ren does. Yet the 11-year-old doesn’t have the courage to tell his dad how he honestly feels, that running just isn’t his thing. He’s far more interested in helping Sutton train the Rollers, and developing a friendship with her, a girl his pal Aiden doesn’t think is anything special.

“Roll” captivates from the first page because of Ren, a boy young readers will empathize with, one who struggles with relationships old and new as he settles into his new home. Ren has some tough situations to weather in the friendship department, and then there’s his dad to deal with.

These dilemmas and the deepening friendship that develops between Ren and Sutton make this endearing book perfect for children ages 8-12.

Books suggested in book sprouts can be purchased at Neighborhood Reads in Downtown Washington.