The Best of Intentions

Two new children's books by local authors

Can the descriptor “prolific” apply to an author who writes, in the latest example, a book with all of 238 words in it? 

Whatever the answer, Susan Verde of East Hampton is back with another children’s book that optimistically pushes back against the encroaching darkness — of geopolitics, on the domestic front, in the form of in-school and after-school pressures, and courtesy of the consciousless wizards of Silicon Valley who conjure gadgets and flickering applications increasingly difficult to pull eyes from.

“The thoughts in my head are like rushing water,” the hero of “I Am Peace” (Abrams, $14.95) worries, hands clasped at chin, “and I feel like a boat with no anchor . . . being carried away.” Swamped, you might say.

The answer is mindful meditation — Ms. Verde describes it well in an extended author’s note at the back of the book, but essentially here the kid slows down, looks inward, and pays attention to where, and how, he is in the world. 

His apparel matches the book’s title, too, with a beanie adorned with peace symbols, one the size of a Mercedes-Benz hood ornament unironically slung around his neck, all rendered in ink and watercolor in the best cartoonish way by Ms. Verde’s longtime collaborator, Peter H. Reynolds, who, again, is entirely in sync with the author’s less-is-more approach. It’s hard to imagine a picture book with more white space in it.

But all is not interiority. Our hero takes action. “I can share kindness with others,” he says to himself. He feeds birds from his hand; he grows a tree (yes, it is subsequently hugged). He hands over his sack to a feathered friend to be “carried away to those who need it.”

The seeds of hope.

 

“Wipeout the Wave”

Sorry, moms, this is not the Billy Baldwin of the hunky Massapequa brothers-in-acting, but rather a guy from Sag Harbor who once ran a cookie store and mail order business in Lower Manhattan. Now he’s come out with what might be the strangest picture book of the year. 

The story behind “Wipeout the Wave” (Decozen Books, $17.95) is best told by Mr. Baldwin himself in his jacket copy: “One day when I was walking along the beach I noticed a funny little wave that seemed to flow differently from all the other waves at the sand bar. It looked like the wave was trying to awkwardly fit in, but then suddenly crashed down, wiping out a small bird.”

Wipeout’s troubles begin at a surf contest, when, awkward indeed, he nearly crushes a female participant and is browbeaten out of there by his fellow swells. Pushing his new misfit status before him like floating plastic detritus he can’t shake, he searches the Seven Seas for companionship and understanding, along the way taking in a movie with a glowing jellyfish, dancing the samba with an octopus where it’s warm, playing iceberg pinball with Flubber the Whale where it’s cold, even dreaming about aliens befriending him in the Indian Ocean. 

All of it, every square inch of every page, in fact, illustrated as a multicolored aquatic phantasmagoria by one Liesl Bell of Jeffreys Bay, a world-famous surfing spot in southernmost South Africa. 

But if you’ll indulge just a bit more plot summation, Wipeout pulls his watery self together only with a little help from a chance encounter with Surfer Steve, who keeps a bag of granola on his board and a Rip Curl flat bill on his head. Turns out there’s a circle of elders called the Wave Council, who are happy to inform Wipeout he’s not an outcast at all, but something much cooler — a rogue wave. 

Sometimes nomenclature can make all the difference.