Greenwillow/HarperCollins/. Oct. 2019. 48p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062894878.
K-Gr 3–A lost basket of dried-up fruit kicks off an engaging picture book adventure. When a small mammal named Thomas misplaces the ingredients he had gathered to bake a cake for Winter’s Eve, his bird friend Lucy spots a “tall, sleek animal” with the basket in his hands. Though she assumes he is a “good-for-nothing fruit thief,” the creature she thought was a “scoundrel” kindly returns the fruit to Thomas, then departs. The two friends realize that the stranger must be “a noble chap” and decide to bring a wintercake to him. Their trek takes them through some challenging winter obstacles, but they finally find the animal’s home and share the holiday and the wintercake with their new friend. The extended 48-page length allows time for the story to develop gently but purposefully. Narration, dialogue, and illustrations work perfectly together to establish characters, themes, and plot. Carefully varied layouts range from panels and circular frames to spreads, conveying both the hardships of winter as well as the cozy hominess of food, companionship, and home. Rich language shifts smoothly between evocative description and engaging dialogue, moving the story forward at just the right pace. The sense of friendship and sharing provides a warm, satisfying conclusion and also reinforces the dangers of assuming the worst about someone you don’t know.
VERDICT A first-rate example of a longer picture book for elementary-age readers and listeners.

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