illus. by Deborah Freedman. 40p. Viking. Sept. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780451474964.
K-Gr 2—In this serene, unassuming story, readers meet Shy, a giraffe who is happiest—both figuratively and literally—"between the pages of a book." Shy, unseen for a large portion of the tale and unidentified until its close, is exceedingly bashful and prefers to experience the world by reading. In particular, he loves books about birds, and when he encounters a beautiful songbird, he makes the brave decision to follow her. Shy's journey takes him across wondrous landscapes and introduces him to other remarkable animals, but just as he summons the courage to speak to her, she is gone, and Shy returns home, heartbroken. When the songbird reappears, Shy, in a satisfying moment of daring, calls out to her (thus identifying himself to readers as well), and the two begin a sweet friendship. The spare text works in lovely concert with the soft, muted illustrations. Composed using pencil, watercolor, and bits of colored pencil, they evoke a sense of joy and wonder. As the book opens, the images are saturated with warm tones of orange and gold, hinting at Shy's identity, and bursts of soft blue and yellow accompany the songbird's introduction. Freedman expertly shifts the color palette to express Shy's emotions and moods. In moments of bravery, exploration, and friendship, the colors brighten; when Shy struggles with his feelings of timidity, the orange tones once again seep into the pages. The subtle beauty of the art invites multiple readings.
VERDICT This warm, gentle meditation on overcoming fears and making new friends is suitable for a cozy read-aloud and quiet one-on-one enjoyment.

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