The Surprise

by Zadie Smith (Author) Magenta Fox (Illustrator)

The Surprise
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Celebrating the quiet power of being different, The Surprise is the children's debut from acclaimed authors Zadie Smith and Nick Laird, with art from exciting newcomer Magenta Fox.

Meet Maud: a guinea pig who inexplicably wears a judo suit--and not everyone understands or approves. When Maud is thrown into a new and confusing situation, it takes brave decisions and serendipitous encounters for her to find her place and embrace her individuality. The Surprise is an endearing story about the quiet power of being different by two veteran writers, and introduces an exciting debut illustrator. Together they have created a picture book that adults and children alike will treasure.

Kirkus Reviews

A fun story of friendship and acceptance that treads familiar territory.

Publishers Weekly

A pet seeks belonging in this familiar-feeling narrative, a picture book debut from married collaborators Smith and Laird as well as illustrator Fox. On Kit's birthday, "her present was a soft, small, sleepy surprise"--a guinea pig dressed in a judo outfit ("I'm quite into judo," she explains). But when Kit, portrayed with brown skin, heads out for a bit, the other pets express skepticism about the Surprise. "Oh, she's definitely an oddball," declares Dora the cat; "If you're not a cat or a dog or a bird, you're an oddball." When the Surprise tries to impress by tying balloons to her waist and flying, she floats right out of the window--and, fortuitously, onto the balcony of an Auntie Mame-esque neighbor, red-haired Emily Brookstein, who states, "Life's too short not to be an oddball." After a splendid afternoon of eating macaroons, playing cards, and feeling seen, the Surprise is returned to her owner, who at last gives her a name: Maud. Finally feeling secure about herself and Kit's love, Maud makes a place for herself among the other pets (they even apologize and ask for judo lessons). It's a tonally frewheeling picture book whose chatty narration and dialogue are anchored by precise, fine-lined art and vivid characterizations. Ages 3-7. (June)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time, as well as three collections of essays, Changing My Mind, Feel Free, and Intimations, and a collection of short stories, Grand Union. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Nick Laird is the recipient of many prizes for his poetry and fiction, including the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Ireland Chair of Poetry Award, the Betty Trask Prize, a Somerset Maugham award, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. He is on faculty at New York University and Professor of Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University in Belfast. His latest collection Feel Free was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Award and the Derek Walcott Prize.

Magenta Fox was born in southwest London in 1994. She studied English at the University of Exeter and since moving back to London in 2015, has been working as a children's book designer. These days she works freelance--illustrating, writing, and designing children's books from her flat in south London.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication date
June 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV002190 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Pets
JUV039140 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
Library of Congress categories

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