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Books in Brief: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead; Pedro and George by Delphine Perret

CHILDREN’S

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead; Wendy Lamb Books; 304 pages $16.99. Ages 10 and up.

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This marvelous, life-affirming novel, told from three perspectives, explores the unsettling, pivotal changes of adolescence as three best friends start seventh grade. Bridget Barsamian almost died at age 8 when she roller-skated into traffic, breaking 13 bones and puncturing a lung. As she left the hospital, a nurse told her “You must have been put on this earth for a reason,” a comment that changed the way she thought about herself. Bridge, as she now calls herself, and best friends Tab and Emily find their friendship tested as Tab discovers an enthusiasm for feminism and Emily’s developing body wins her the attention of a popular older boy who gets her involved in what becomes an escalating game of texting each other photos. Then there is Sherman, who becomes friends with Bridget while grappling with the betrayal of his grandfather, who left his wife after decades of marriage. Meanwhile, an anonymous narrator, a high school girl, is suffering in silence from the bullying of a former friend and her own betrayal of another. Stead deftly adds different perspectives on Bridget’s accident and weaves the narrators’ interlocking stories together in a surprising and most satisfying way. Stead’s other marvelous novels for this age group include “First Light” and “When You Reach Me,” which won the Newbery Medal.

– Jean Westmoore

PICTURE BOOK

Pedro and George by Delphine Perret; Atheneum Books for Young Readers ($17.99 ) Ages 4 to 8.

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Pedro, the crocodile, and George, the alligator, set out on a mission to clear up the confusion over crocodiles and alligators and find themselves in a classroom in this hilarious romp from a French author-illustrator. (Her not too scary-looking green beasts appear against whimsical black and white backgrounds with funny details, including a teacher’s notebook with an open page reading “Jules vomited” and a poster declaring “Fruits are our friends.”) This gives a taste of Perret’s offbeat storytelling: “Pedro was very happy to be home. He had a little mud bath. And in the evening, he went to sleep thinking about the very square teeth of human beings.” – Jean Westmoore