Phoebe & Digger

illus. by Jeff Newman. 32p. Candlewick. Mar. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5281-4. LC 2012942614.
PreS-Gr 2—Phoebe isn't thrilled when a new baby arrives at her house, but she is crazy about the earthmover she gets at the same time. She plays with "Digger" endlessly and begins to wreak havoc with it. When Mama takes Phoebe and the baby to the park, Phoebe finds some dirt, and she and Digger are off to play. When a boy starts screaming because Digger unearthed an earthworm, Phoebe gets sent to sit on the bench until she can learn "how to play nice." Once released, she heads for another area full of dirt and it is there that a bigger girl takes Digger away from her. The child tries using her words and anything else she can think of to get it back and is almost ready to cry when her mother intervenes. To Phoebe's great relief, the big girl sheepishly returns the toy. When Mama hugs Phoebe tight, all is right with the world. This story is part sibling rivalry and part bullying but it also features an interesting girl who chooses to play with earthmovers over dolls. The large bold paintings are perfect for storytime and are well used throughout to show mood and scale.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Young Phoebe scores a toy truck (yay!) at the same time she acquires a baby sister (boo!). Her new digger keeps Phoebe company while Mama is preoccupied with the little one, but it also gets the desperate-for-attention-and-tired-of-being-cooped-up big sis into some scrapes around the house. Time to go outside, decides Mom, and the three family members (plus truck) head to the park. Phoebe and Digger are having a blast in the dirt until a scaredy-cat "crybaby boy" lands her in time-out. Having served her penance, Phoebe goes back to play -- but is herself stymied by a bully girl who snatches Digger up. Our young heroine tries to stand her ground, but to no avail; just when she's feeling most isolated, Mama comes to the rescue, which reminds Phoebe that, in a family, it doesn't have to be every girl for herself. Mixed-media illustrations in subdued hues, with sketchlike black lines and lots of white space, enhance the straightforward text while playing up the tale's small moments and its big emotions. The story is notable for its sympathetic depictions of a rambunctious girl(!) truck lover (who is both the victim and perpetrator of teasing), her harried mother, and the not-always-adorable little baby; its relatable-to-new-big-siblings situations; and the nonsaccharine ending (bully-girl hasn't learned her lesson, but Digger is on the case). elissa gershowitz

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