The best children’s book has just the right balance of adventure, humor and love. These new stories have all those and more.

The Antlered Ship

By Dashka Slater; illustrated by Eric Fan and Terry Fan; Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster; 42 pages; $17.99

With an abundance of creative award-winning talent behind this enchanting myth, The Antlered Ship is a magical journey aboard an amazing ship with a close community of animals.

Marco the fox wants questions answered and joins a seaward journey with pigeons and deer to find truths. Though he hoped for other fox friends to share his curiosity, he learns to find adventure and intrigue with the stalwart crew.

After a rocky start, the animals learn to work together. With curiosity as a bond, they eventually battle a pirate ship full of other animals and land on a beautiful island — still with no foxes. But that’s not the end, as the adventurous crew realizes their ship and group just might be the magic island they long for.

Told in timeless, thoughtful prose with beautiful, intricate illustrations, The Antlered Ship is a heartwarming lesson in friendship, wisdom and looking forward.

Red & Lulu

By Matt Tavares; Candlewick Press; 40 pages; $17.99

Red and Lulu are best bird friends who live in a majestic evergreen tree. They love wintertime, when their tree lights up and people sing “O Christmas Tree.”

One day, Red flies back to the tree and notices it’s loaded onto a truck, but he can still hear the sweet sound of Lulu’s song. Cardinal Red chases behind the truck, frantically chirping so Lulu can hear him. He follows the truck over bridges and rivers and into New York City, at which point he’s tired and hungry and overwhelmed.

Red happily hears his favorite “O Christmas Tree,” follows the song and finds their tree, now the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, with Lulu safely inside.

Red & Lulu is a lovely ode to the power of love through change that also pays tribute to the beauty of New York during the holidays. Matt Tavares’ flowing, magical pictures make his tale a holiday gem. Best of all, the birds move on to live in the tree when it’s replanted in a park.

Three Little Monkeys

By Quentin Blake; illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark; HarperCollins; 34 pages; $18.99

Hilarious and heartfelt, the prolific Quentin Blake’s Three Little Monkeys, an action-packed story of monkey business, is perfect for reading aloud.

The vintage-looking story involves Hilda Snibbs and her three little monkeys, Tim, Sam and Lulu. Each day when she’s away, the monkeys wreak havoc and chaos; Hilda then heads back to the store to purchase what they’ve ruined; and then they ruin more. Soon they’ve made such a mess and she’s so stressed that she utters, “Oh, for a peaceful life without these wicked little monkeys!”

She gets her wish, for the monkeys seem to disappear. And when she looks for them, sad and distraught, they happily appear in a closet.

Kids will love the ending of a relieved Hilda in her bed who discovers that “all the spoons and forks from the kitchen and three cans of sardines in tomato sauce.”

With the look of a classic picture book, Three Little Monkeys is incredibly fun.

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

By Tim Wynne-Jones; illustrated by Brian Won; Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $16.99

With a hip, mod look, Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest book, Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes, makes shoe shopping a secret-agent mom and son mission extraordinaire.

Sam, or S.A.M., and Mother K. (Kay) try on lots of shoes, and they both choose tiger-stripe designs so they can roar and run fast. This inspires Sam to plan for world domination with his stuffed animal friends, but first he must find K., who’s not in the Holding Cell of Despair (the toilet), the Torture Chamber (the piano room) or the Rocket Silo (the garage). K. is actually hanging up clothes outside and “bringing in the clouds,” so the pair watches the storm, “drinking mounds of lava topped with dollops of candied gardenia and pearls.”

Truly a witty, cool joy to read, Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes is stylish enough to entice kids and adults.

Come Home Already!

By Jory John and Benji Davies; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99

The third in the hysterical picture book series about a one-sided friendship, Come Home Already!, sends Bear off on a fishing trip on his own to get away from Duck. But Duck is so lonely and sets out to find his best pal. Since Bear is having a hard time of it all, with rain and a lack of food and company, he’s not horribly disappointed to see Duck, and the pair has a nice night in the great outdoors. In the morning, though, Duck starts to annoy, and Bear is stunned into silence once again.

Fantastically funny in its depiction of the annoyances of others, the Bear and Duck series is sympathetic to that younger sibling or classmate who irritates but is somehow endearing to all of us.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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