Books by Bruce Whatley

MY MOM'S THE BEST by Rosie  Smith
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 2, 2012

"A darling first app for little ones to share with their own moms. (iPad storybook app. 1-5) "
A simple, well-executed animal mommy/baby love story for the youngest crowd. Read full book review >
AESOP'S FABLES by Kees  Moerbeek
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 4, 2011

"Timeless wisdom, splendidly decked out. (Pop-up fables. 6-10)"
Huge, extravagantly designed and detailed pop-up illustrations for 10 classic cautionary tales showcase a trio of uncommon talents. Read full book review >
THE SECRET MESSAGE by Mina Javaherbin
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 26, 2010

Based on a poem by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi that Iranian-born Javaherbin heard from her father as a bedtime story, this adaptation offers an environmental message that will resonate with today's readers. The colorful parrot featured in Whatley's attractive, stylized illustrations has brought attention and thus good fortune to his owner, a Persian merchant. Not surprisingly, the fact that his cage is spacious and made of gold does little to assuage the parrot's sadness over being confined. When the merchant travels to India, the parrot devises a clever plan to find a way to win his freedom. The text is lengthy but straightforward and well-paced, and the acrylic paintings include amusing details and appealing textures, providing plenty to pore over. While this may never reach a wide audience, it's a great choice for adults interested in discussing philosophical issues and/or exploring diverse cultures with young listeners. Unusual and thought-provoking. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
DIARY OF A BABY WOMBAT by Jackie French
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 13, 2010

If this duo's minimalist Diary of a Wombat (2003) was a textbook example of words and art together creating narrative, then this sequel is equally an exemplar of what can go wrong when you try to apply a formula to success. In look and feel, this offspring's parentage is obvious: Across broad, white double-page spreads are placed vignettes of an adorable wombat baby and his mum, above which range its diary entries. "Monday / Early morning: Slept. / Slept. / Late morning: Slept. / Woke up." Although this joey spends plenty of time sleeping, it does have youthful energy, which it expends in playful havoc both by itself and with the toddler who lives in the "GIANT hole" adjacent to the too-small burrow it shares with its mother. As before, Whatley's acrylics explore the subtext beneath the diary entries, producing many chuckle-worthy moments. Still, the air of freshness that blew through the first book is absent here; better to buy a new copy of the first than to invest in this rerun. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
MARTHA DOESN'T SHARE! by Samantha Berger
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 7, 2010

Martha (her new favorite word is "mine") is more than a bit reluctant to share her toys with her baby brother. Solution? Her family ostracizes her until she capitulates. Martha is an appealingly expressive and self-possessed preschool sea otter, and the lineup of items she calls "mine" is quite funny (a lava lamp, a cupcake, a potted plant, a chair, all the teddy bears). As rendered by Whatley, her family is nicely rounded and their expressions patient and loving. The text is simple, nicely paced and to the point: " ‘K, Maffa,' says Edwin as he waddles away." But the resolution is a bit flat-footed, coming after Martha is left to think about sharing: "She thinks and thinks and thinks about it." This thinking approach would seem to be a developmental unlikelihood for a preschooler as young as Martha. Young listeners who don't simply feel sorry for the lesson imposed on her may feel manipulated or even slightly outraged on her behalf. Still, for Martha's fans or for parents looking for a book to help deliver a message, this may be just the ticket. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
MARTHA DOESN’T SAY SORRY by Samantha Berger
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2009

Martha is a pretty normal kid, for an otter—she skateboards and sings, shares her snack and makes presents, sticks out her tongue and throws things. But no matter what, she does not apologize. That is, until the day that she does some not-so-nice things to her mother, father and baby brother. Martha wrestles with wanting to do the right thing without having to say sorry, but her family doesn't give cookies, piggyback rides or hugs to people who don't apologize. Near the beginning, readers may see a bit of Eloise and Olivia in Martha's upturned nose and stubborn refusal to do the right thing, but happily, her loving family's lesson hits home and she learns to make amends, albeit at first like Carl Norac's Lola (I Love You So Much, illustrated by Claude K. Dubois, 1998, etc.). The watercolor-and-colored-pencil artwork encapsulates Martha's girliness, her better-than-thou attitude and her internal struggle with her conscience. Whatley's representation of body language and facial expression powerfully complement the text. An enjoyable introduction to what could be a new beloved character. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
HOW TO SCRATCH A WOMBAT by Jackie French
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 16, 2009

In an equally beguiling companion to their award-winning Diary of a Wombat (2003), French and Whatley collaborate on an introduction to wombats and their behavior—as observed through the author's 30+ years of having them as neighbors and caring for injured ones in New South Wales. After opening with her credentials ("I've also looked after orphaned baby wombats—cuddly, furry creatures that wreck your kitchen and take over your life"), she covers the animals' ancestry, appearance ("hairy brown rocks with legs"), feeding habits, minds (such as they are), relations with humans and life cycle. Readers will come away understanding that they are wild animals despite their fondness for carrots and a good scratch on the back and that they can be enjoyable to have around so long as one doesn't mind the occasional broken door or bite on the butt. They are also, as Whatley shows in frequent close-ups and vignettes, impossibly cute. This shorter version of a 2005 title published Down Under is as irresistible as its subject. (Nonfiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
CLINTON GREGORY’S SECRET by Bruce Whatley
ADVENTURE
Released: March 1, 2008

In tribute to unfettered imaginations everywhere, Whatley introduces a smiling lad with an inner life so filled with adventure that even a day of "nothing much at all" brings handmade paper hats for a ship full of pirates, a rocket voyage to the Moon and a trip around the world on plates of spaghetti. Everywhere he goes, Clinton travels with a large entourage that includes a dragon named Gordon, a pair of ruddy-nosed giants, a seahorse, a triceratops in a pink tutu and others—all rendered with massive, finely detailed solidity in the eye-filling art, and all (except the spaghetti) visible, in variously reduced forms, scattered about his room in the opening spread. Children whose own rooms are self-contained universes will feel perfectly at home in Clinton's; for storytime flights, pair this with, Simon Puttock's Earth to Stella! (2006), one of Harold's forays with his purple crayon. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
JOSEPHINE WANTS TO DANCE by Jackie French
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

The oft-told story of the stage-struck youngster who saves the show when the star is injured returns in this variation that features a ballet-dancing kangaroo named Josephine. She perseveres in the face of a doubting brother named, of course, Joey, and a giggling audience. It's her ability to twirl and leap and point her toes that finally drives them to clap and cheer. She's a graceful if not beautiful ballerina who practiced her art with other Australian animals but yearned for something more than the outback and found it. The author and illustrator have a number of collaborations behind them, most notably Diary of a Wombat (2003). An entertaining read-aloud that shows off an appealing tutu-clad kangaroo leaping across perfectly pink pages as if she were captured in a series of camera clicks. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
THE GREAT TEXAS HAMSTER DRIVE by Eric A. Kimmel
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Kimmel spins out an original yarn featuring Pecos Bill, Slue Foot Sue, their five children and 18,376 hamsters. When the youngest young'un, Slue Foot Sal, asks for a pet hamster, her fond parents oblige. Unfortunately, she gets two—and in no time a scampering swarm has fanned out over the prairie, nibbling down the grass and spooking the longhorns. Fortunately, Bill knows a man in Chicago who'll take them all (for pets). Unfortunately, they'll first have to be rounded up and herded to the railyard in Abilene. Using a palette of invitingly pale, warm hues, Whatley depicts squads of smiling, irresistibly cute hamsters in close-up ground level and underground scenes being herded by broad-faced, comically confused-looking "cow" pokes in full western gear. Readers who didn't get their fill of hamsters from Peggy Rathmann's 10 Minutes Till Bedtime (1998) will scurry after this rodentine rout; it also makes a good match for Barbara Ann Porte's A Turkey Drive and Other Tales, illustrated by Yossi Abolafia (1993). (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Ruthie Bon Bair will NOT dry her long hair, and soon she discovers there are mushrooms up there! Then lush ferns, then moss, lily pads and a froggie—there's hardly a thing not a-bloom on her noggie. No grown-up can fix her, not mom, doc or plant guy, and the hairdresser fails, so Ruth gives it her own try. Since mushrooms and fern things won't grow when it snows, wet-haired in her nightie, outdoors Ruthie goes. Plants droop, Ruthie blow-dries, but still all's not well—there's more of this hair-raising story to tell. Our crinkle-haired friend and her leaden-eyed cohorts now face a new growth of the warm, dry locale sort. This claims to be writ in the Seuss-y tradition, but that only comes to a lukewarm fruition. Comic pictures are drawn with those pencils of color, but one pretty much looks a lot like another. If you've got a hankerin' for stories of hair, try Franny B. Kranny (2001) or Bedhead (2000) to share. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
PETE THE SHEEP-SHEEP by Jackie French
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 17, 2005

In a sort of "queer eye for the straight sheep," a mild-mannered shearer and his sheep-sheep show a trio of tough shearers how to get in touch with their stylish sides. Ratso, Big Bob and Bungo, and their sheepdogs Brute, Tiny and Fang, are taken aback, to say the least, when Shaun shows up with fedora-clad Pete, a sheep-herding sheep, whose polite way with his flock represents a radical and unwelcome new way of doing things. Ostracized from shearer society, Shaun practices his craft on Pete, whose new do draws all the other sheep to him, prompting him to open a salon. Soon, Brute, Tiny and Fang are sporting Shaun's handiwork as well, and finally Ratso, Big Bob and Bungo all join in. As in the pair's Diary of a Wombat (2003), the understated text gives the whimsical watercolor-and-pencil illustrations plenty of room to explore the inherent wackiness of the concept, as the gentle Shaun finds the right look for everyone, sheep, dog and shearer alike. It's a sweetly fleecy tale of outsider-makes-good, the genially inevitable ending entirely satisfying. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS by John Rox
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

The words to a Christmas song from the 1950s serve as the text for this exploration of a most unusual Christmas gift. An unnamed little girl in pink pajamas is the first-person narrator, explaining in detail why she wants a hippopotamus as her present. Various views of the hippo are shown in a slightly confusing, nonlinear time sequence, but then why would time proceed in a straightforward fashion with a hippo in the house? Santa is shown pushing the hippo through the door, and the following pages show the little girl caring for her hippo, unwrapping it as a Christmas package (a different packaging treatment is shown on the cover), and then flying off with Santa as the hippo pulls the sleigh. Though the little girl and the words to the song are rather ordinary, the lively, lavender hippo in Whatley's illustrations is a delightful creature, with a big, pink bow on its head and expressive, bulging eyes. (In fact, that hippo deserves a name and a story of its own.) The music and song lyrics are included in the final spread. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
NOISES AT NIGHT by Beth Raisner Glass
ADVENTURE
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

Nighttime, with all its shadows and sounds, can be disconcerting for even the most lion-hearted. In this tale, as the moonlight touches a little boy's quilt, he says, "I hear noises at night," as his and his dog's ears perk up. "I like to pretend when I shut off the light, / The noises turn into adventures at night!"—and thus the color palette changes from blues to brights. The sounds are first identified, and then imagined scenarios come into play. A vroom of a passing truck becomes the youngster flying a plane. The tick-tock of the clock becomes the trotting of a horse as the boy rides out west. One of the best spreads is prompted by the hiss of the heater. It shows the youngster wrapped in a snake's puffy coils, the background ablaze in orange, but the snake's eyes show that it is completely charmed by the boy's flute playing. The expansive illustrations, in dazzling acrylics, amuse and enchant. This tale is a wonderful way to ease bedtime fears and may even result in children creating their own soothing game. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
PIG ON THE TITANIC by Gary Crew
ADVENTURE
Released: March 1, 2005

Not a living pig, but a musical toy carried on board by a passenger, Maxixe (pronounced "Mash-eesh," though readers are left to look that up for themselves) describes how its simple dance tune helped to keep up the spirits of a lifeboat full of children through that tragic "night to remember." In Whatley's crisply detailed reconstructions, the smiling white piglet seems to glow in its owner's arms as it's carried through Titanic's palatial rooms, past elegantly dressed passengers, and then into a boat crowded with fearful-looking children. Rescue comes at last, and Maxixe's narrative ends amid smiles of relief. Capped by a closing note and a later photo of the pig, and owner Edith Rosenbaum, this, like Daisy Spedden's more detailed Polar the Titanic Bear (1996), lends the historical catastrophe immediacy for younger audiences while downplaying its horrific aspects. (Picture book/nonfiction. 6-8)Read full book review >
ON THE FIRST DAY OF GRADE SCHOOL by Emily Brenner
ANIMALS
Released: July 1, 2004

One python (that didn't squeeze me) is quickly joined by two buzzing bees, three fat rats, four burping goats, and more in a harmless bit of back-to-school fluff that takes its cues from "The Twelve Days of Christmas." A bemused teacher in sweater and ponytail accepts the series of gifts, her frazzlement measured by the wisps of hair that escape her bow and settle sweatily around her face. Brenner's verse chirps along merrily enough (though that python never seems to scan just right), but it's Whatley's bright, cheery illustrations that carry the day. The ever-increasing menagerie packs itself onto a background of white space, stacking animals higher and higher in arrangements kids will love to pore over. Deathless literature it ain't, but it's a fine, funny entry in sub-genre that sees a lot of activity every September. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
DIARY OF A WOMBAT by Jackie French
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 18, 2003

A wombat, American readers will learn, is an adorable round creature that looks something like a small, pointy-eared bear and likes to sleep. It also has enormous claws, a prodigious appetite, and an unshakable determination to get what it wants. This imperturbable specimen keeps a diary that keenly describes her daily excitements: "Monday. Morning: Slept. Afternoon: Slept. Evening: Ate grass. Scratched. Night: Ate grass. Slept." When new neighbors move in and prove to be an excellent source of carrots, the diary's list expands to reveal the lengths this wombat will go ("Chewed hole in door") to ensure a steady stream of the treat. Whatley's acrylic vignettes, arranged sequentially across the spreads, are set against a generous white background and provide the perfect counterpoint to French's deadpan narration. The tortured outline of a garbage can says it all when paired with, "Banged on large metal object till carrots appeared." The level of irony involved requires sophisticated readers, but they will laugh out loud at the wombat's antics—and breathe sighs of relief that she's not their neighbor. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
THE PERFECT PET by Margie Palatini
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2003

Elizabeth must pull out all the stops to convince Mother and Father to trade in Carolyn, her cactus, for a real pet. Elizabeth's various methods of persuasion—using the element of surprise, catching them off guard, and going for broke—all prove futile, eliciting only a standard response of "Huh? What? Who?" from her parents. Luckily, Elizabeth stumbles on to the ideal pet, a bug she promptly adopts and names Doug. Everyone agrees that Doug is the perfect pet—even Mother and Father concede that Doug is better than a dog because they "have more room on the couch." Palatini (Earthquack!, 2002, etc.) is once again exercising her masterful grip on picture-book humor; she makes funny look easy. Whatley's illustrations, which are strikingly reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's work and are in the style of his earlier Wait No Paint (2001), will also produce chuckles, as white backgrounds draw focus to the comical expressions of shock and confusion sported by Elizabeth's parents. While this work is accessible to very young readers by virtue of Palatini's easy-to-manage format—with subtle repetition in the narrative and subtitles—it's wordy enough, and has enough substance, to get a laugh out of the easy-book crowd. And Elizabeth's antics are sure to strike a funny bone. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS by Gene Autry
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

Autry and Haldeman's old Christmas song becomes a Christmas Eve story in this interpretation illustrated with realistic paintings by Whatley (Lullaby Lullabook, not reviewed, etc.). The inviting cover heralds the title in a banner of shiny gold and shows Santa's life-sized face along with a white puppy that plays a key role in the story. The puppy stows away in Santa's sleigh in the opening spread, pops out to surprise Santa in mid-flight, and becomes a longed-for Christmas gift for a little boy named Matthew in the final pages. The illustrations follow Matthew, who looks about four or five, through his Christmas Eve, as Santa arrives, exchanges notes with him, leaves the puppy, and takes off again in his sleigh in a dramatic spread with the viewer observing from a bird's-eye perspective. The words to the song are presented in short text blocks set off on oversized double-page spreads that are large enough to work well with a sing-along group and the music for the song is included on both endpapers. Though the song lyrics are primarily about Santa, they also include Christian references to prayer, following the light, and giving "thanks to the Lord above, 'cause Santa Claus comes tonight." (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL by Cecil Frances Alexander
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

All things are indeed "bright and beautiful" in the serene, sharply detailed country scenes Whatley (Wait! No Paint, p. 669, etc.) has created for this familiar 19th-century hymn. With creamy, photorealistic clarity, the artist portrays an overall-clad child visiting barn and orchard, pausing to admire a golden sky, coming home after her ramble with a basket of apples, an armful of cattails—and a story, or perhaps a poem, with which to regale her fond family before bedtime. Everything from faces and livestock to compositions and rich colors are so natural, so harmonious that viewers will feel elevated even if they don't know the song. The verses are recapitulated, with musical arrangement, at the end. Lovely. (Picture book/poetry. 5-9)Read full book review >
WAIT! NO PAINT! by Bruce Whatley
ANIMALS
Released: June 30, 2001

Poor pigs! Not only do the Three Little Pigs have to contend with their old nemesis the Big Bad Wolf in the third visit this year, they also find themselves at the mercy of The Illustrator. The first inkling that all is not well comes when a mysterious Voice from nowhere spills juice all over the first little pig's straw house: a dismayed pig stares down at his house, which is partially obscured by an orange puddle and an overturned glass. The illustrator is an equal-opportunity meddler, giving the first and second little pigs time to escape to their brother's house by redrawing the wolf's nose. But the real problems start when the illustrator informs the pigs that they have all gone pale because he has run out of red paint—a squeezed-out tube of red paint appears on the corner of the page as corroborating evidence. The interplay between the infuriated and befuddled characters and the illustrator continues, with the pigs and the other elements of their story drawn as cartoons and the illustrator's paints and other artifacts appearing realistically on top of the plane of the page. This sort of self-conscious recognition of the artifice behind a picture book is nothing new; recent examples include Chris Van Allsburg's A Bad Day at Riverbend (1996) and Jackie French Koller's One Monkey Too Many (1999)—not to mention I Love Going Through this Book, by Robert Burleigh (see above). By setting this concept within such a familiar tale heightens the artifice, Whatley (Captain Pajamas, not reviewed) allows children to explore it on one level while enjoying a fractured fairy tale on another. It's a sophisticated concept, though—use it with children who are beginning to understand what an illustrator is, and pair it with Janet Stevens's From Pictures to Words (1995) for a thorough treatment. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
MY FIRST NURSERY RHYMES by Bruce Whatley
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 31, 1999

This entry in the Growing Tree series provides a sampling of ten classic rhymes. The sturdy format allows little ones to explore the world of moon-leaping cows and blackbird pies, Mrs. Hen and her speckled offspring, and many other extraordinary characters. Whatley's wry interpretation of these familiar verses, however, has appeal for adults, too. Every illustration contains some element of surprise, e.g., Wee Willie Winkie's nightly jaunt takes him past the butcher's, the baker's, and the candlestick maker's. A witty introduction to the realm of nursery rhymes. (Picture book. 1-3) Read full book review >