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Sympathy for a cockroach

Story of a Cockroach
By Carmen Gil & Sonja Wimmer
(Farrar Straus Giroux, $14.95, ages 5 & up)

Sympathy for a cockroach would seem like a hard trick to pull off, especially when the first page reminds readers of the parts of the house they like to inhabit, like floorboards and bathroom pipes, and the fact that a cockroach can have up to 400 children.

 Disgusted yet? Somehow Carmen Gil and Sonja Wimmer pull off the feat. It helps that the drawings are so smoothly colorful and warmly sophisticated in shades of red and brown.

The story takes a turn from the factual to the fantastic when “I was leaving my hideout to look for food in the garbage can and…Fairy Drunhilda, doyenne of the Academy of Magic” turned our cockroach into a princess. The ultimate lesson, be content with your lot, includes some sharp observations about the world of people as well as insects on its way through the pretty pictures and down-to-earth prose.

Cecil The Pet Glacier
By Matthea Harvey & Giselle Potter
(Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, ages 4-8)

Four- to 8-year-olds may not have yet experienced the embarrassment their parents can cause, but Cecil The Pet Glacier will introduce them to the concept of embarrassing parents and the slow reconciliation that eventually happens, sometimes over realizing how much they have in common with their progenitors. It is not something to be treated lightly by either side, nor welcomed prematurely.

But Cecil The Pet Glacier is so bizarre and full of narrative that the concept lurks in the background like a distant sun only lightly affecting the glacier and story in the foreground. Considering herself a normal girl with abnormal parents, Ruby Small wants to have little to do with parents who occupy their time cutting their bushes and even the dad’s own beard into topiary shapes.

When Ruby says “No way” to a trip to China, the parents, trying to be accommodating, agree to what they hear as “Norway”. The strange glacier calf manages to attach itself to them for a story that eventually brings the family together in harmony, if not normalcy.

The story’s bizarre twists cover a world of geography and inner landscapes that will not cause nightmares, just pensive puzzles in the mind

Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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