Short-takes:
Kids' picture books

THE CURIOUS AR-CHEW
by Sarah Grundy, Ali Teo and John O'Reilly (Scholastic New Zealand, $18)

A hedgehog, a goose and a rabbit wonder what the weird creature standing in the hollow of a tree could possibly be. Each of them sees a bit of the tree-bound animal and wrongly assumes what it is. First-time author Grundy won the 2016 Joy Cowley Award for this story and the artwork is pleasingly polished.

TRIANGLE
by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
(Candlewick, $16)

Triangle winds up his distant neighbour Square in a playful tale of geometry and petty rivalry. Jon Klassen's cool illustrations are the real star - as with some of his previous work (notably, We Found A Hat), the artist shows a fine knack for characters who give a knowing look to the reader.

DOUBLE TAKE - A NEW LOOK AT OPPOSITES
by Susan Hood and Jay Fleck
(Walker Studio, $28)

A nameless boy and his elephant pal explore matters of size, relativity and perspective. Don't worry: it's nowhere near as pointy-headed as it sounds. Double Take is one of those neat books that can start a pretty deep conversation without losing the kids' attention. The retro, 1950s-style illustrations work nicely with the public announcement, old-school educator tone.

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CAN'T CATCH ME
by Timothy Knapman and Simona Ciraolo
(Walker, $28)

"Jake was far too fast for Old Tom Cat." Actually, the little mouse also proves to be far too fast for a fox, a wolf and a bear - all of whom want to eat him. "I'm faster than lightning!" declares the skiting rodent. Maybe, but Old Tom Cat is more sly and ends up wearing a cat-that-got-the-cream grin. This handy lesson about not being too big-headed comes with a gently macabre ending.

I JUST ATE MY FRIEND
by Heidi McKinnon
(Allen & Unwin, $28)

"He was a good friend, but now he's gone," wails the Henson-ish monster who's just committed an act of cannibalistic "friendicide". So he goes looking for a new friend, never finding a perfect match, worrying - as we all do at some point - that he'll be friendless forever. Eventually, he finds a suitable match . . . and then the story repeats. Another nicely macabre ending with some really fun, primal artwork.

I WANT TO BE IN A SCARY STORY
by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien
(Walker Books, $28, out September 1)

Little Monster isn't as tough as he thinks he is. He wants his story to be a scary one until he's confronted with actual ghosts, a scary forest and a witch. Happily, the little tyke overcomes his fear by finding the fun in it. A handy book for a parent needing to talk to their kid about night fears or the monster that lives in the basement.

Short takes is a weekly round-up of books from specific genres and appears on Saturdays in the NZ Herald's books section.