Books by Henry Cole

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS by John Lennon
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 10, 2019

"The authors' names will sell it, but it's the pictures that sing. (Picture book. 4-8)"
The lyrics of the classic Beatles song accompany an illustrated story in Cole's (Spot & Dot, 2019) latest creation. Read full book review >
SPOT & DOT by Henry Cole
Kirkus Star
by Henry Cole, illustrated by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 13, 2019

"An extraordinary search-and-find that delivers the hum and intrigue found in a city's multitudes and also the singular feeling of returning to one's individual place in the world. (Picture book. 4-10)"
A cat trails a runaway dog on a gleeful sprint through a bustling city. Read full book review >
TRY A LITTLE KINDNESS by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 9, 2018

"The story will hopefully create similar compassion in readers—or it might just make them giggle. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Kids are encouraged to engage in small but mighty acts of kindness throughout the day. Read full book review >
ANOTHER QUEST FOR CELESTE  by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 6, 2018

"Earnest animal fantasy with exceptionally designed illustrations but uncomfortably set in a time and place undeserving of a rosy glow. (author's note) (Animal fantasy. 6-10)"
A timid mouse goes on an inadvertent journey. Read full book review >
BAYBERRY ISLAND by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 2, 2017

"Animal fantasy adventure with a gentle feel. (Fantasy. 6-10)"
Three woodland animals take a journey to bring a baby dragon back to his home. Read full book review >
A TEENY TINY HALLOWEEN by Lauren L. Wohl
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 13, 2016

"Rates high in creative problem-solving and oral storytelling but low in Halloween safety. (Picture book. 4-7)"
A new "teeny tiny woman" tale joins the Halloween shelf. Read full book review >
EDDIE THE BULLY by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 6, 2016

"Not a single, perfect solution to the complicated problem of bullying but a reminder that there are a few bullies who can actually be disarmed. (author's note) (Picture book. 3-6)"
A young bully gets a second chance. Read full book review >
FEROCIOUS FLUFFITY by Erica S. Perl
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 19, 2016

"Another crowd pleaser from the creators of Chicken Butt! (2009). (Picture book. 6-8)"
A pet hamster comes to Room 2-D: So cute! So fluffy! So…toothy. Read full book review >
THE SOMEWHAT TRUE ADVENTURES OF SAMMY SHINE by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2016

"Although no one will doubt the eventual outcome, since Sammy is way too cute to fail, this amusing tale will serve well as an early chapter book or read-aloud. (Fantasy. 7-10)"
Sammy, a clever pet mouse, lives a contented life until his owner's brother kidnaps him to serve as pilot for a remote-controlled plane. Then his adventures begin. Read full book review >
MAXI THE LITTLE TAXI by Elizabeth Upton
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 29, 2016

"A bouncy read-aloud with an adorable taxi full of dash and spirit. (Picture book. 3-5)"
Maxi the taxi can't wait to start driving through the streets of a big city. Read full book review >
SPOT, THE CAT by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2016

" When child and cat finally reunite, the sweet relief feels immediate and intimate—and all that looking so very much worth it. (Picture book. 3-8)"
Spot, the cat, slinks out an open window and pads through a bustling village, with its concerned owner, a white-skinned child with tousled black hair, trailing behind. Read full book review >
BRAMBLEHEART by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Nestled in a small trim size, this is an appealing and accessible genre blend. (Fantasy. 6-10)"
A young chipmunk finds his path. Read full book review >
BIG BUG by Henry Cole
by Henry Cole, illustrated by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 6, 2014

"Visually lovely and appealing. (Picture book. 3-7)"
What is big and what is little? It's an enormous question, especially for young children who are just beginning to acquire a tentative understanding of their place in the physical world. Read full book review >
BOGART AND VINNIE by Audrey Vernick
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 18, 2013

"Diverting and comical. (Picture book. 4-7)"
This story of an unlikely animal friendship is an unnecessary send-up of the plethora of videotaped accounts of interspecies pals but still has its charms. Read full book review >
NELLY MAY HAS HER SAY by Cynthia DeFelice
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 19, 2013

"Jocular and sparking with energy, an old tale gets a new turn. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A playful remake of the English folktale "Master of All Masters." Read full book review >
PRAIRIE CHICKEN LITTLE by Jackie Mims Hopkins
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2013

"Nevertheless, good fun to share in a lap or with a group. (Picture book. 3-7)"
Mary McBlicken is one panicky prairie chicken. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2012

"While this sweet adventure story with feline protagonists won't be everyone's cup of tea, it will resonate with just the right reader. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
The fourth volume in a gentle series chronicling the adventures of a tiny gray Persian cat called Bonnie Boadicea, or Little Bo for short. Read full book review >
UNSPOKEN by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 2012

"Moving and emotionally charged, the book is capped with a powerful close-up of the child's face on the rear cover with the legend 'What would you do if you had the chance to help a person find freedom?' (Picture book. 7-10)"
A farm child and a fugitive make an unspoken connection in this suspenseful, wordless Civil War episode. Read full book review >
WHO'S WHO? by Ken Geist
by Ken Geist, illustrated by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 7, 2012

"This serviceable bedtime story will find the most appeal with families of multiples and brother/sister pairs. [Note: An earlier version of this review was published in the July 1, 2012, issue and cited a concern based on a preliminary copy of the book. We publish herewith this revised review, as the problematic text was removed in the final, edited version.] (Picture book. 1-5)"
A classic counting rhyme is subjected to a lackluster treatment in this retelling that focuses on twins. Read full book review >
I KNOW A WEE PIGGY by Kimberly Norman
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 14, 2012

"This gleefully messy pig will prompt endless re-readings. (Picture book. 2-6) "
How can one small pig get into so much trouble? Read full book review >
SURFER CHICK by Kristy Dempsey
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2012

"A guaranteed 'Cowabunga!' (Picture book. 3-6)"
A most expressive chicken makes a splash in this winning title about learning to surf. Read full book review >
THE KISS BOX by Bonnie Verburg
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 2011

"Similar in subject matter to Audrey Penn's The Kissing Hand, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak (1993), but a whole lot more artful, this fresh take will motivate younger children to create boxes of their own. (storyteller's note) (Picture book. 3-7)"
In this sweet story about separation anxiety, Mama Bear and Little Bear find a way to send kisses to each other when they are apart. Read full book review >
CHICKEN BUTT'S BACK! by Erica S. Perl
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2011

Perl's young champion of all things gluteus returns in an evermore zany salute to the nether regions. As in Chicken Butt! (2009), this book can be read as a duet, although that will only apply to the "up" end of its stated audience for 3-year-olds and up. The text crackles: "Hey, you know what? / In fact, I do! And where and why and how and who. / But, Mom! / I'll make this crystal clear: no more ‘Chicken Butt!' my dear…" And Coles' tickled-pink cartoonish artwork gets right into the mix, the chocolate chip to the cookie dough. The wordplay of inversions allows the boy to find butts aplenty as mother and son roam the aisles of a supermarket, there to find a deer butt, a cat butt, a witch butt, even a bear butt. "Stop right there," says mom. "But wait!" says her son. "He's eating under there! / He's what? Who's eating under where?" You see where this is going, and the force of gravity leads the text to poop and fart, which may be inevitable but feels like a shopworn laugh at the expense of more loopily inventive repartee. But still, the denouement is so merrily explosive that just to imagine the shrieking voices of a read-aloud is mightily cheering. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK by Lester L. Laminack
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2011

All is calm on the Tuckers' farm. Cows are quietly chewing cud, hens are clucking and pecking, old hound's lazing on the porch. Only an occasional customer at the produce stand disturbs the routine—until a crate drops out of a passing truck and out pops a peacock! It's his first time on a farm, and he has no idea what to do. He does what comes naturally, and before long, his strutting and shrieking draws attention. Business at the farm stand booms…but the hens are jealous. They do all the work, and that upstart peacock gets all the attention. Peacock wants to be useful, so old hound suggests the two groups switch jobs. The hens glam it up with beads and bows, and peacock does his darndest to lay eggs. No one's successful. Thanks to old hound, everyone learns a lesson about sticking to their strengths. Laminack's tale of barnyard envy is a fine addition to farm fables, but it's Cole's signature watercolor, ink, and pencil cartoon illustrations that charm here. His frenetically posing chickens will inspire giggles, as will old hound's sardonic looks. Good farm fun. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
ONE PUP’S UP by Marsha Chall
ANIMALS
Released: June 15, 2010

When one pup wakes up, the rest are sure to follow. "2 puppies tumble. / 3 puppies roll / in a fuzzy puppy jumble," and on up to ten. After a meal "in the Line-'em-up Café," the countdown begins till "[t]he last pup sags. / All the puppies sleep. / No pups awake / in the furry puppy heap." Cole's watercolor-and-ink cartoons present a cheerfully motley assemblage of floppy-eared, short-legged, chubby-bellied puppies in a mix of solids and spots. They run, wrestle and munch with an abandon dog lovers will recognize and appreciate. Chall's text romps as energetically as this mixed-breed litter, with a rhythm and verve that practically reads itself. It's sure to be a read-aloud hit, and the author has considerately provided a natural resting place in the verse to give audiences time to crack up over "6 puppies piddle in the middle of the muddle" (the illustration shows the puppies sniffing a fire hydrant with interest). Almost as much fun as a real puppy, with none of the mess. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2010

Starting outside a house, the reader's viewpoint moves indoors page by page until there "sat Celeste, hunched over her work table" under the floorboards. Celeste's a mouse, her nest cozy and treasured—until it becomes unsafe, forcing her to look elsewhere for her own sheltered spot to call home. Her antagonists are bullying rats, a housecat, a rainstorm and blustery humans hosting John James Audubon as their guest. Celeste befriends Audubon's 15-year-old assistant, Joseph, advising birds how to pose for portraits (and becoming horrified when Audubon pins down wings to force positions). Cole's complexly shaded pencil drawings are a wonder of shifting angle and scale. Often his pencil work wholly covers entire spreads; the type lies on top of the drawing without dominating the aesthetic. Some drawings are smaller, but the art steadily resides at the heart of this uniquely beautiful depiction of 1821 Lousiana (plantation house, wildlife, trees) and a sweet, guileless mouse searching for a nest and friends. A rare gift: a novel with artwork as whole and vital as a picture book's. (afterword) (Animal fantasy. 6-10)Read full book review >
THE PRINCESS PIGTORIA AND THE PEA by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2010

Edwards presents another alliterative version of a classic fairy tale. Princess Pigtoria is particularly perturbed by the dilapidated state of her castle. Hoping to improve her lot, she responds to a newspaper ad for a princess to marry Prince Proudfoot. Not overly enthused by her first impression of the Prince, Pigtoria nonetheless follows the parlor maid to the guest apartment. There, a pizza-and-polka party ensues with Percy the pizza-delivery pig and several of the other castle servants as guests. That night, Pigtoria sleeps horribly—victim of the party crumbs on her pillows. And although she did not feel the pea (it slipped out), she is offended when Proudfoot reveals his plan. In the end, both end up with mates, though not with each other. Cole's watercolor illustrations steal the show with funny details. He cleverly incorporates objects that begin with "p," providing value-added fun in the form of a seek-and-find game (the portrait of a crowned pork chop labeled "Cousin Pearlene" is priceless). More like Dinorella (1997) than Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke (1995) in its alliterative abundance, the device often takes over the story, making this an extra purchase. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)Read full book review >
CHAUCER’S FIRST WINTER by Stephen Krensky
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 6, 2009

Chaucer, a little bear cub, decides not to hibernate so he can keep playing with his friends, a fox and a squirrel, all winter. They teach him about snowball fights, ice "skating" and sledding, but when a blizzard threatens, Chaucer intuitively builds a snow den to keep them all safe. The story is so full of holes it's practically mesh: What does Chaucer eat all winter? How is it he doesn't even get sleepy? What about his parents? Cole's illustrations depict a teddy-bear-like Chaucer disporting himself while his benignly smiling parents keep an eye on him in the background. Krensky's text shines in its use of dialogue, if not in its observance of natural history, and kids who can overlook its logical gaps will probably get a chuckle or two out of it. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
MOUSE WAS MAD by Linda Urban
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2009

While never communicating quite what Mouse is mad about at the outset, this charmingly illustrated title takes readers through several possible methods of expressing said anger. Mouse tries to blow off steam by hopping, stomping, screaming and rolling, but in each case, another animal is ready with both a sharp critique and a demonstration of superior skill in the category at hand. Practicing these techniques lands Mouse in increasingly mucky mud puddles. Finally in caked overalls, he is really (times four) mad. "Standing-still mad." This in-character manifestation fairly bedazzles his associates. " ‘Impressive,' said Hare. / ‘What control,' said Bear. / ‘Are you breathing?' asked Hedgehog." Urban unfurls the gentle "be true to yourself" moral perfectly, with plenty of funny dialogue, overplayed reaction and the enduring appeal of the tiny hero. Cole's terrific watercolors reflect Mouse's emotional growth in spreads and spots brimming with movement. Who knew standing still could be so dramatic? Well-pitched for preschoolers just learning social skills, this would be equally excellent for family reading, classrooms and storytimes. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
CHICKEN BUTT! by Erica S. Perl
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2009

On one hand, this is an utter goofball of a book, an unhinged piece of slap-happy rhyming. On the other, it is a challenge to engage. It depends on the reader's mood. If that mood is like the father here—preoccupied, disconnected, maybe a bit grumpy—it could probably use this type of elevation. "You know what?" asks a boy. "What?" says his dad, slouching behind the newspaper. "CHICKEN BUTT!" hollers the boy, which gets his dad's attention. "You know why?" "Why?" "CHICKEN THIGH!" Off the book goes, very merrily energetic, served on a plate of Cole's rocket-propelled artwork (which features gleeful close-ups of the chicken anatomy in question). Read as a duet, the romp is a powerful piece of cacophony, more frenetic by the moment, which the book's targeted age group will allow for only at the upper end—so some rapid voice-flipping will be necessary. Then again, if an adult reader's mood is already fine, this über-farce may send that adult, like this book's dad, round the bend, where a drink should be waiting. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
TRUDY by Henry Cole
by Henry Cole, illustrated by Henry Cole
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

At the country auction, Esme and Grandfather find just the right animal for them: "Not too big, not too small. Not too stinky, and no feathers!" Indeed, Trudy turns out to be closer to perfect than they could have imagined, and Esme quickly forms a strong bond with the little goat. But one worrisome day Trudy goes into her barn and refuses to come out. A pattern quickly emerges—when snow flies, Trudy stays inside. Word of her reliability as a weather forecaster spreads, but she loses her fans' trust when she goes into her barn and it fails to snow. Could something be wrong with the little goat, or is something even more amazing in store? From the start, Cole infuses both his gentle tale and his detailed acrylic illustrations with the routines and responsibilities of taking care of an animal and the deepening care and concern that Esme shows for Trudy. The deceptively simple story gently nudges children to look at and appreciate animals as more than just barnyard fixtures. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
KATY DUCK, CENTER STAGE by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
ANIMALS
Released: May 6, 2008

Capucilli works on developing her Katy Duck franchise to Biscuit proportions. Katy loves to dance, so she practices hard for her recital; a momentary attack of stage fright rocks her confidence, but she recovers as the crowd shouts, "BRAVO!" There's absolutely nothing about this book or the other Katy Duck titles that cries out for the board format; it does a disservice to the board-book audience who will not understand it and to the preschoolers who deserve a fuller tale. Read full book review >
JACK AND JILL’S TREEHOUSE by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2008

The Jack and Jill of Edwards's cumulative tale fetch not a pail of water but lumber; they are building a tree house. Then they fetch a whole lot more: an old quilt for a roof, a flashlight for nighttime illumination, a box for a table and treats to eat, all of which attracts friends for a visit and birds to serenade them to sleep. Each new item heralds a new line: "These are the treats / that were piled high on the table / that sat under the light / that hung from the roof / that was raised over the floor . . . " Minus any lyricism (yet with a new, compacted spelling of "treehouse"), the text precludes a read-aloud with much swing, though it does possess a chugging, chanting dignity. Cole's artwork, however, should keep readers' eyes dancing, from the scene-setting, page-and-a-half, pastel-fresh spreads, with their diverting incidental activities, to the natty, pen-and-ink rebus-like images that follow upon each cumulative line. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
THE RUBBER-LEGGED DUCKY by John G. Keller
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2008

Thanks to his mother's accidental ingestion of a rubber band, the duckling dubbed "Five" hatches out with one stretchable leg and a "Bing-boing" rather than a "Quack." The other farm animals make fun of him, but Mama assures him that "you are different from the others, but you are my special ducky, and that means you can do special, wonderful things." Indeed, when a fox comes along one night, Five proves his mettle by sounding the alarm and helping to drive the predator off. The plot is a bit thin, but it's impossible not to like such a clever, heroic ducky, and in Cole's pleasant rural scenes Five—sporting a squiggly leg that makes the "disability" theme even more explicit than Mama's comment—is joined by expressive, cleanly drawn sibs and other livestock. All in all, this is closer in spirit and audience appeal to Jane Simmons's Daisy tales than the classic "Ugly Duckling." (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
BIG CHICKENS FLY THE COOP by Leslie Helakoski
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 1, 2008

The feathered flibbertigibbets introduced in Big Chickens (2006) waddle out of the henhouse once again—this time with a hankering to find the farmhouse. Unfortunately, the first "house" they come upon has dogs in it, and chaos ensues: "Drooling muzzles dribbled. Frightened yard birds quibbled. Sharp teeth crashed. Pointed beaks smashed. Snouts snapped. Wings flapped. Until . . ." they run home. Encounters with a tractor and livestock-filled barn produce similar results and hasty retreats. The plucky pullets persevere, though, and catching sight of their goal at last they erupt into giddy, glancing, prancing, tap-dancing celebration. Pairing Margie Palatini-like wordplay to comical cartoon illustrations of plump, bug-eyed fowl egging each other on, this crowd-pleaser begs to be read aloud and will certainly set off gales of giggles. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE OLD HOUSE by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2007

Will it be new residents or demolition for the lonely old house? A "For Sale" sign has stood out front so long that the windows droop unhappily. Passersby muse that it needs to be knocked down. But a family of five stops by and seems interested. Hope is rekindled. The squirrels and birds and the big leafy tree advise the old house to stand up straight and twinkle its windows. The family lingers, with the boy imagining a tire swing hanging from the tree and the girl clearing the tall grass that blocks the flowers. Still, Dad's final words are, "It needs a lot of work." Early the next morning, the old house is distressed to hear a bulldozer in the distance. But no! It's the family in their big rented truck. In no time, TLC creates a happy home. Cole's watercolors, which humanize the house and tree, add a playful element. Offbeat and appealing. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
ON MEADOWVIEW STREET by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2007

While her father mows the lawn at her new house, Caroline wonders how it could actually reflect the street's name. Soon she finds a small blossom growing in the grass, then another, and eventually persuades Dad to sell the mower while the yard grows freely with wildflowers. Adding a maple tree and a man-made pond attracts an assortment of wildlife from birds, to insects, to a mud turtle and a meadow mouse. Neighbors are encouraged to follow suit, creating meadow environments rather than pristine lawns. Full-color acrylic paintings in double-paged spreads of multiple shades of green, dotted with hues of summer flowers, tell this nature-lover's story which suggests the possibility of chemical-free garden environments. Though the message will be missed by young children, most will enjoy a final rendering of all the meadow creatures next to their proper names that now live on Meadowview Street. Gentle persuasion for the naturalist in everyone. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
TUBBY THE TUBA by Paul Tripp
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

In this schmaltzy but satisfying 1940s tale, a tuba that wants to play melodies rather than just oompah-ing along in the background finds unlikely inspiration. Derided by his fellow instruments for being overambitious, Tubby sadly wanders off to sit on a woodland log—where he's joined by a frustrated-musician bullfrog who teaches him a simple musical passage. Returning to the orchestra pit, Tubby proceeds to win over both renowned visiting conductor Signor Pizzicato and the other instruments—whereupon, in a surreal twist, the frog reappears to make the lesson explicit: "We have our points, too, don't we?" In a retro style that harks back to the story's original era, Cole outfits the flexible-bodied instruments with human faces and limbs (though modern dress), and sends bars of music floating past at opportune moments. All in all, the story will still appeal to modern young audiences, and though Danny Kaye and Carol Channing, among others, have recorded versions of it, the publisher has chosen to include on CD the harder-to-find original, read by the lyricist/author with musical accompaniment. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
BAD BOYS GET COOKIE! by Margie Palatini
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2006

Palatini riffs on the Gingerbread Man and Hansel and Gretel stories in this return of her two bad boy wolves. Willy and Wally, aching to satisfy their sweet tooth, chase after a smart little cookie that has escaped from the bakery ("I'm afraid I added too much spice," moans the baker). Needless to say, Willy and Wally, despite being wolves, are outfoxed by the demon cookie even when they are dressed as Hansel and Gretel. There is a lot of good badinage between Willy and Wally, with their knowing exchanges, but some of that humor may be lost on younger readers, who may also be confused as to why honey—laid out as a trap by the wolves—would make the cookie slip and slide. Yet these lapses are smoothed over by Cole's merry, slapstick art. Never has a runaway cookie been so annoying looking, and never did Hansel and Gretel observe with such longing the witch's derriere. Yes, they are "Bad. Bad. Really, really bad" in all senses of the word. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
SHIVER ME LETTERS by June Sobel
ADVENTURE
Released: May 1, 2006

Joining the flotilla of volumes sailing along beneath the Jolly Roger, this alphabet takes a pirate crew with literary ambitions (of a sort) on a quest. " ‘R,' roared the captain. ‘R's not enough. We need other letters to help make us tough. Let's sail far away to find ABC's. Bring me back D's, E's, F's, and some G's.' " Driven on by a crocodilian commander outfitted with both a hook and a rubber-ducky inner tube, a set of animal swabbies sail off to an island where, after Anchoring in a Bay, they proceed to gather a Cannonball, Doubloons and so on, capped by a cabinful of Z's at weary day's end. Just as Cole tucks easy-to-find letter forms into his cartoon scenes, Sobel artfully inserts multiple examples of each letter into her lines of verse for observant young readers to spot. Something of a sound-alike to Bill Martin Jr.'s classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (1989, illus by Lois Ehlert), this will have young tars and lubbers alike happily signing on for the voyage. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
OINK? by Margie Palatini
by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Henry Cole
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2006

To be a pig in pig heaven—there's a goal to set one's sights upon. Thomas and Joseph are two such situated porkers. They swill, they muck, they have a certain ripeness about them. They are, in the eyes of their barnyard brethren, in need of remedial action. The do-gooders know what is best: Sprucing up the sty, getting some greens in the diet, taking a bath minus the mud. When the hens and rabbit and duck try to show Thomas and Joseph how to effect their betterment, the pigs are too ham-fisted by half, and it rebounds to the good Samaritans to show them how to get the job done. Thomas and Joseph yawn their thanks. Maybe they're not so dumb after all. Palatini's pigs are a couple of cunning free-thinkers, and Cole paints them just right—nothing cute here, only a pair of big Tom Sawyers quite comfortable in their own skins. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BIG CHICKENS by Leslie Helakoski
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

With wordplay reminiscent of Margie Palatini at her best, Helakoski takes four timorous chickens into, then out of, the literal and figurative woods. Fleeing the henhouse after catching sight of a wolf, the pusillanimous pullets come to a deep ditch: " ‘What if we can't jump that far?' ‘What if we fall in the ditch?' ‘What if we get sucked into the mud?' The chickens tutted, putted, and flutted. They butted into themselves and each other, until one by one . . . " they do fall in. But then they pick themselves up and struggle out. Ensuing encounters with cows and a lake furnish similar responses and outcomes; ultimately they tumble into the wolf's very cave, where they "picked, pecked, and pocked. They ruffled, puffled, and shuffled. They shrieked, squeaked, and freaked, until . . . " their nemesis scampers away in panic. Fluttering about in pop-eyed terror, the portly, partly clothed hens make comical figures in Cole's sunny cartoons (as does the flummoxed wolf)—but the genuine triumph in their final strut—" ‘I am a big, brave chicken,' said one chicken. ‘Ohh . . . ' said the others. ‘Me too.' ‘Me three.' ‘Me four' "—brings this tribute to chicken power to a rousing close. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
MS. BITSY BAT’S KINDERGARTEN by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Prolific collaborators Cole and Edwards return for this story of new-teacher anxiety. Rabbit, Snake, Possum, Groundhog, Mole and Mouse arrive at their school for the second day only to find Mr. Fox is going to stay home and care for his new babies. Each woodland child has a specific fear: Groundhog worries they'll get carrots rather than chocolate-chip cookies and Mouse worries she won't be kept busy. Despite her strangeness, Ms. Bitsy Bat does everything perfectly. Cole's pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are as smilingly bright as ever. However, Edward's story is problematic on a couple of fronts. The animals are all realistically sized, and a fox would never fit into their school. Mouse announces that they'll have a new classroom, but they appear to go to a one-room schoolhouse. Though the message is worthy, Ms. Bitsy Bat's perfection is unrealistic, as is the children's attachment to their teacher (Mr. Fox) after one day of kindergarten. Most collections would best be served by sticking with Miss Bindergarten for now. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Justin Richardson
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2005

In this true, straightforwardly (so to speak) delivered tale, two male chinstrap penguins at New York City's Central Park Zoo bond, build a nest and—thanks to a helping hand from an observant zookeeper—hatch and raise a penguin chick. Seeing that the penguins dubbed Roy and Silo "did everything together. They bowed to each other. And walked together. They sang to each other. And swam together," their keeper, Mr. Gramzay, thinks, "They must be in love." And so, when Roy and Silo copy the other penguin couples and build a nest of stones, it's Gramzay who brings a neighboring couple's second egg for them to tend, then names the resulting hatchling "Tango." Cole gives the proud parents and their surrogate offspring small smiles, but otherwise depicts figures and setting with tidy, appealing accuracy. Unlike Harvey Fierstein's groundbreaking The Sissy Duckling (2002), also illustrated by Cole, this doesn't carry its agenda on its shoulder; readers may find its theme of acceptance even more convincing for being delivered in such a matter of fact, non-preachy way. (afterword) (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
GIGI AND LULU’S GIANT FIGHT by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2004

A new pair of characters portrays a realistic preschool concern with a certain amount of charm and subtle wisdom. Best friends Gigi and Lulu do everything together, mirroring their choices in clothes, school lunches, and play interests until the day Lulu's block house gets knocked down; they vow never to speak to each other again, both convinced that the other is to blame.Neither parents nor teacher can help them reconcile their feelings, but after being paired for "twins day" at school, encouraged to wear clothes they like best, and bring their own favorite lunch, the two realize their individual tastes and form a healthy mutual respect that allows them to be best friends again. Cole's typically lively drawings show a variety of animals and stress the concept of differences as the large porcine character of Gigi interacts with the small rodent personality of Lulu. Inserts with cutout puppet figures for Gigi Pig and Lulu Mouse come with a suggestion card on ways to help children cope with and resolve conflicts. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
MOOSEKITOS by Margie Palatini
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2004

For a third time, Moose's mammoth and magnificent moostache comes in handy when disaster impends. Moose's call may bring together relatives to Moose Lodge from as far away as Moosechusetts and Moossissippi, but before he can even get a collective picture, they're wandering off to bike, hike, swim, or bicker. How to get them back together? It looks like a lost cause—until, that is, clouds of fierce-looking moosquitos arrive. Cole dresses his Bullwinkle-ish vacationers in casual clothes and endows them with a variety of hairdos—but Moose's outsized handlebars top even his wife's towering bouffant, and with the help of plenty of glue, provide the raw material for a quick, if confining, moosquito net. A "perfectly perfect" reunion, at last. Relentless wordplay, not to mention the fundamentally screwy premise, will keep young readers heartily amoosed. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
VICTOR VITO AND FREDDIE VASCO by Laurie Berkner
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2004

A food-themed children's song recorded by Berkner is served up as the story's text in this saga of two traveling polar bears, Victor and Freddie. They own a café in Alaska, and when their customers become bored with the menu's single offering of salmon, the bear pair sets off to expand their culinary horizons on a cross-country road trip. They eat burritos in New Mexico, rutabagas and collard greens in Louisiana, and spaghetti in New York City, all the while sending postcards back home to the Klondike Café. Cole's costumed animals are full of delightful expression, particularly his seal waitresses in their perky pink uniforms and '50s-style specs. The song lyrics are augmented with an opening letter explaining the upcoming journey and with a device of newspaper-style headlines in the upper page corners to indicate a change in location. The repetitive and rhythmic song lyrics serve as predictable text, but the words really need to be sung to enjoy the work to its fullest flavor. (The music is included.) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE LEPRECHAUN’S GOLD by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2004

Substandard work from a usually reliable picture-book duo. Having learned harping but not generosity from Old Pat, Young Tom flees in terror when a leprechaun's cry of distress comes from the dark woods. Old Pat, however, rises to help, and at a subsequent harper's competition, Young Tom's strings break, while Old Pat plays winning music on an instrument suddenly turned to gold. So Young Tom finds "generosity growing in his heart." Cole's portly leprechaun looks like a refugee from a Keebler ad, and not only doesn't the artist bother to make his harps look realistic, he leaves the same number of strings on Old Pat's even after Young Tom has maliciously snapped one earlier on. Likewise, the talented Edwards also leaves her chops at home: "Old Pat was humble and willing to play his music for free for those he knew had not the means to pay. ‘Foolish old man,' scoffed Young Tom. ‘What use is a gift if not to make you rich.' " Stick with Teresa Bateman's similarly themed (and titled) Leprechaun Gold (1998). (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
BAD BOYS by Margie Palatini
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

It's a close shave—literally—for two big bad wolves in Palatini's latest hilariously re-spun folktale that's full of punishly good humor. Having escaped from an angry Red Riding Hood and three thoroughly steamed pigs, Willy and Wally Wolf go "on the lam" by disguising themselves in (what else?) sheep's clothing. They may fool new flock mates Trudie Ewe and Meryl Sheep, but canny Betty Mutton, knowing "baa-aa-ad" when she sees it, tricks the hirsute pair into standing in a certain line . . . and suddenly they're being shorn to within a hair of their bare hides. His idea of sheep's clothing including beads, high heels, and loose, brightly patterned housedresses, Cole depicts two decidedly doggy predators unsuccessfully trying to hide their delight at being among so many lambchops on the hoof, but last seen hurriedly knitting woolens to cover their peach-fuzz pelts. Delighted young readers will hope for more appearances from this inept but "Bad . . . bad . . . really, really bad" duo. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
NAUGHTY LITTLE MONKEYS by Jim Aylesworth
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

Exuberantly naughty monkeys abound in this energetic alphabet book. The rhyming text begins as the human parents of the 26 young monkeys head out for the evening. Each monkey makes trouble, starting with one tossing a paper airplane, the next jumping on the bed, sneaking chocolate cake, and so on. The words representing the letters of the alphabet (airplane, bed, cake, etc.) are in bold, colored type, helping those just learning their letters. The full-bleed illustrations in deep, vibrant colors are a riotous activity of monkey mischief; the comic rhymes add appropriate narration. Anyone who's ever been naughty will recognize the emotion conveyed on the monkey's little faces as they hide under the covers when their parents get home: being naughty was SO much fun, but now they're a little worried about the consequences. Not to fear, they simply go off to the zoo in the morning, just as young readers go to school. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
THE WRIGHT BROTHERS by Pamela Duncan Edwards
BIOGRAPHY
Released: June 1, 2003

This author/illustrator duo turns its whimsy to the Wright brothers as they remodel the device of "The House That Jack Built" to explain the steps that led to the historic first flight. The cumulative story becomes tedious ("This is the bicycle shop opened by Wilbur and Orville years after making a printing press designed by the brothers, whose interest in flying was sparked by a toy . . ."), but is offset by comments and asides from a band of four talking mice who observe the various stages and cleverly add humor, bits of information, and interest. Perspectives in the colorful illustrations convey airiness and contrast effectively with the small mice on the ground. Endpapers display a ribboned flight timeline animated with the miming mice. Among the plethora of books on the subject this year, most of them straightforward, none has taken a humorous approach, which makes this more accessible to young readers. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)Read full book review >
ON THE WAY TO THE BEACH by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2003

The mid-Atlantic coast with its myriad plants and animals comes to life in this marvelous search-and-find book. A walk to the beach on a summer morning leads the narrator through the woods, into a salt marsh, over the sand dunes, and onto the beach. In each spot, the narrator sits very still, and looks around to see "who's watching me." Native flora and fauna are the focus: Virginia creeper, loblolly pine, a nuthatch, a mosquito, sea oats, a red fox, an osprey, and a flock of pelicans. Every other page folds out, and features a list of plants and animals found in each of the four habitats. Cole's (Rosie's Roses, p. 382, etc.) marvelously detailed and accurate illustrations give readers a peek into the natural world. Children and adults alike will love the challenge of matching the names on the list with the correct illustrations. The concluding message encourages young readers to experience the excitement of seeing the animals in the area where they live by finding "a place to sit and watch and listen," something that is sometimes difficult for squirmy, noisy children to do. Perfect for introducing youngsters to the world around them, and especially appropriate for anyone who visits or lives near the seashore. (answer key) (Picture book. 4-12)Read full book review >
ROSIE’S ROSES by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2003

Having done with the letters C, F, and S, Edwards and Cole offer an alliterative run of R to cheer a story of graceful, if unintentional, gift-giving. Rosie the raccoon and her brother Robert are on their way to their Aunt Ruth's house. Rosie has a clutch of four roses to give her aunt. As they ramble along, Rosie notices she is missing one. Robert thinks perhaps the rat they just passed might have picked it up. Indeed he has—"Rogue," cries Rosie—but she also notices that it lights up his dank quarters, so she leaves it as a gift. As the two gambol their way to Aunt Ruth's, they manage to drop all the roses, and all the roses are picked up by deserving souls: a robin bringing some gaiety to her sick husband, a rabbit offering balm to his frazzled wife, a bride about to be married without a garland for her hair. Rosie will call them rapscallions and rascals before she learns the situation. So sweet a soul is Rosie, that readers will agree with Aunt Ruth when she tells Rosie, "you're my prize rose." A sensitive little tale that teaches by clear example, kept on the light side with Cole's gladdening artwork and all those repeat letters: if it isn't "rowdy rabbit children romping everywhere," it's "a rumor that Mr. Robin has raging strep throat." Really rewarding. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
WHY DO KITTENS PURR? by Marion Dane Bauer
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 2003

Playful verses explore the mysteries of the animal kingdom with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. Bauer's (Runt, 2002, etc.) simple rhymes form a tongue-in-cheek lesson on the whys and wherefores of animal behavior. The animals featured are an engaging blend of creatures of high-interest to the preschool set. She examines a puppy's wagging tail, a lion's ferocious roar, some squeaky mice, and hibernating bears. The format of the text follows a set pattern in which an observation about the natural world is presented as a basic question, with answers that are sometimes fanciful and other times factual. Bauer even arranges the responses into clever riddles for readers to decipher: "Why do spiders spin? To make a plate to keep their dinner in." Cole's (City Chicken, Jan. 2003, etc.) colored-pencil and acrylic illustrations pull the tale together, featuring a young boy wandering through his house and encountering the varied fauna described in the verses. Cole's paintings are at their best when they blend the reality of the boy's life with the fantastical images of the animal antics: a humongous lion lounges next to the kitchen table, holding a bowl labeled "kitty," a tree branch grows into the child's bedroom through a window, and frogs hop down stairs that end in a lily pond. Full of fun, Bauer's tale is just right to share with fledgling naturalists. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
CITY CHICKEN by Arthur Dorros
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 2003

A storm of double-entendres and figures of speech turned into literalisms, plus a fine little twist on commonly held notions of city vs. country, make Dorros's story of a chicken that flew the coop a winner. Henry—short for Henrietta, it seems—is a city chicken. She has her own coop and the run of the backyard where she works the scratch and chats with Lucy, the family cat. Lucy regales Henry with stories of strange farm animals, reflected in illustrations showing Henry's interpretation of them. Henry decides to investigate for herself. She tries to fly to the country, but opts to take the bus when her wings fail her. Henry asks a passing ant, "Where is the country these days?" The ant motions to a truck headed in the right direction, a garbage truck, which, the ant notes, serves great meals. Once in the country and on a farm, Henry gets the special treat of visiting a substantial chicken coop, which resembles a cross between a purgatorial apartment house and a forced-labor camp. Henry is on the next truck home and another pastoral idyll gets its balloon pricked. This is not Cole's most inspired work, though he still manages to stand above the crowd. The illustrations, with their corny mannerisms, flag when held up next to the text. But Dorros shines, the wordplay at just the right pitch of sophistication, slyly winking at the readers as it invites them in on all the jokes. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
FRIGHT NIGHT FLIGHT by Laura Krauss Melmed
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

A witch goes Halloween trick-or-treating and makes room on her super jet-fueled broomstick for a group of fiendish friends. Narrating in rhyme and first person, the green-faced, green-haired witch asks a question at each location that allows the reader to guess who the next ghoul will be. As the six fiends climb aboard—vampire, werewolf, ghost, monster, skeleton, and mummy—their facial expressions play out the interactions and play up the spookiness, even on the orange-striped cat wearing black-framed glasses and the broom's robot-like jet engine. With each addition, the refrain repeats the previous passengers: "Hop aboard, there's always room / for a boo-boo-boo-gity Ghost, / a howling, growling Werewolf, / and a lurking, smirking Vampire / to ride this broom." The colorful cartoon-like illustrations display the right amount of exaggeration that keeps the scariness within limits and include funny details to spy in the scenes. (Be sure to spend extra time in the graveyard.) Readers will likely tumble to the ending and the witch's destination from the title—"your neighborhood," "your house," to "ring your doorbell" for "TRICK OR TREAT." Kids will readily hop on board for this fun, frightful flight. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE SISSY DUCKLING by Harvey Fierstein
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2002

No, Elmer isn't like the other boy ducklings; they box and play baseball, he bakes cakes and puts on puppet shows. Yes, Elmer is a great big sissy. When his dad complains that Elmer has made him the laughingstock of the flock, his mom reassuringly tells him he is special and someday will amaze everyone. That day happens when the flock flies south for the winter. As the ducks take to the sky, hunters shoot at them, wounding Papa. Elmer, who weeks before had swum away from home when his dad declared him "no son of his," witnesses the horrible scene and rescues Papa, nursing him through the winter in the hollow tree he has made his stylish home. When spring and the ducks return, they are amazed to see Papa and Elmer, now a hero. Elmer is endearing with Cole's colorful and sprightly illustrations combining line and style of Disney and Paul Galdone. The cover sets the tone, with Elmer wearing heart-shaped sunglasses and skipping as others watch disapprovingly. Portraits of Ethel Merman and Barbie adorn his wall and he carries a flowered backpack. For those who don't recognize the author's name, the layered double meaning in the book's message will be immaterial while the familiar story in a new guise will resonate with any kid who's felt like an "underduck." This heartwarming tale, based on Fierstein's HBO animated special, is just ducky. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
WAKE-UP KISSES by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: Dec. 1, 2001

As the sun dips below the horizon, some animals are just beginning to stir and wake to face the busy night ahead. " ‘Wake up!' hoots Owl. ‘T'wit, t'woo! Open your eyes! There's lots to do.' " The bats and flying squirrels join the owls to swoop through the dark night. The field mice rise to a breakfast of berries while the baby raccoons plan a raid on nearby garbage cans. The night is filled with the sounds of the tree frogs' song. " ‘Croak! Croak!' Tree Frog sings. ‘Let's get busy doing things!' " As the children are snuggling into bed, these animals are just beginning their day. Overly dark drawings in what could be pastels or colored pencil overwhelm the story, making this an impossible choice for group reading. A very bright cover in pinks and greens gives no indication of the somber illustrations within. The night does not seem that exciting—just dark. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
SLOP GOES THE SOUP by Pamela D. Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Edwards and Cole (Warthogs Paint, p. 739, etc.) collaborate on their third story about a pair of wacky warthogs who explored counting and colors in the previous stories in the series. This time the two are preparing soup and pudding for a dinner party, and a sneeze sets off a chain reaction of sloppy, noisy events, ending with another sneeze. Each plot twist follows the text pattern of the title, with the noisy word in creatively positioned, brightly colored type. ("Rattle goes the bucket. Splash goes the water. Swish goes the mop.") Some of the noise descriptors are a bit of a stretch, as in "Whoosh goes the teddy bear," but overall the story's slapstick comedy is fast-paced and humorous. Cole's pen, colored-pencil, and watercolor illustrations are bold and bright, with an oversized format that will make this a hit in story hours with noise or soup themes. An author's note on the last page cleverly explains the concept of onomatopoeia. (Picture book. 2-7)Read full book review >
WARTHOGS PAINT by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2001

This popular team's warthogs return, fresh from their sloppy kitchen counting experience (Warthogs in the Kitchen, 1998), to make a fun mess with buckets of paint. It is raining and the warthogs have decided to paint the wall. First the primaries are introduced: "All colors can be made, I've heard it said, / As long as we have some yellow, blue, and red." (The color words sport the actual color.) They paint great swipes of color on the wall and then get down to their specialty, making a real fiasco, but with enough control to the mayhem to produce orange, green, and purple. "What a terrible mess! But see, it's clear: / Mixing blue and yellow makes green appear"—in great pools on the floor, which are transferred to the wall. All said and done, a rainbow materializes on the wall. A little color quiz concludes the story. It's not Margaret Wise Brown's Color Kittens—there is little of the magic of color here, it's all process, and the verse is far from transporting—but it is a solid, slapstick introduction to color, plus utterly inspirational when it comes to making a rainy day bright. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
BOSTON TEA PARTY by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2001

Here is the Boston Tea Party in a format that uses the cumulative repetition of "This is the House that Jack Built" to unfold events. Elementary school teachers introducing the Revolutionary War may find this a novel approach, but the lines are awkward when read aloud, and lack the gentle rhyme and cadence that makes "Jack" a perennial favorite. Edwards begins in India: "These are the leaves that grew on a bush in a far-off land and became part of the Boston Tea Party," and progresses to the first battles of the wars, concluding with "These are the Americans, independent and free, who honor the soldiers who fought for freedom remembering the tea chests, 340 in number, which bobbed in the harbor stained dark brown. ‘Like a giant teapot!' shouted the sailors. . . . " Cole's illustrations are handsome and humorous, with resolute patriots, an indolent King George, and cheeky mice commenting on the humans while paddling around Boston Harbor in a tea cup. A final double page provides a timeline of events from 1763, the end of the French and Indian War when England decided to keep troops in America, through 1783 and the signing of the Treaty of Paris. A good idea, only partially successful. (Picture book/nonfiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
CLARA CATERPILLAR by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: May 31, 2001

Fans of Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke (1995) and Some Swell Slug (1996) will have fun with this freshly minted fable. Clara is comfortable staying inside her chrysalis, even though Cornelius and a crowd of caterpillars cluster around curious as to why she's so cautious. Both as caterpillar, and later as a magnificent scarlet butterfly, cruel (and catty) Catisha sneers at drab, cream-colored Clara—until a crow swoops down for a snack. With a distracting flutter, Clara flies to the rescue, camouflaging herself in a camellia until the confused crow decamps. Hailed a hero by Catisha and the other butterflies, Clara declares herself "completely contented." In close up color cartoons, Cole follows this courageous cabbage butterfly from egg case to chrysalis ("crushed," "creased," "crumpled," "cranky," and "cramped") then on to adulthood, never straying far from a "c." It's an alliterative adventure that may be set in a garden, but is anything but garden-variety. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
CAN YOU MAKE A PIGGY GIGGLE? by Linda Ashman
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 2001

A stubborn pig refuses to crack a smile even as all the other farm animals are laughing at the mayhem. "A chick might snicker," "a calf might laugh," and "a duck might chuckle," but riddles, silly dancing, and even fiddling can't coax this pig to giggle. Cartoon-like illustrations rendered in watercolor and colored pencils depict the silly animals as they amuse themselves and each other with their antics. A spectacles-wearing owl, an accordion-playing turtle, and a fiddling chick are sure to tickle the funny bone of even the most serious young readers. Still, when the young boy and animals speed up their wild antics, figuring that maybe faster twirling and jumping will amuse their porcine friend, he will not laugh. It's the pig that gets the last laugh however, because when the other animals are looking away, he offers a grin. The rhyming phrases and tongue-twisting verses will certainly challenge even the most seasoned veteran of the read-aloud. Even if the "piggy won't giggle," most everyone else will. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
BRAVO, LIVINGSTON MOUSE! by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Livingstone Mouse (1996) returns to the scene in a musically themed adventure. A gathering of woodland creatures preparing for a dance performance are nothing but tangled feet (or slithery knots in the case of the snakes) because they ain't got that swing. Then Livingstone Mouse comes to the rescue with a little rhythm, in a cheery tale that doubles as a modest natural-history lesson. An evening of dance is scheduled in the forest, but as Livingstone comes across the performers, he finds problems, problems, problems: the foxes are trotting on each others toes; the snakes turn the twist into a sheepshank; and the centipede can't get the clog dance right ("he keeps tripping over his boots"). In each instance, Livingstone politely mentions, "I think your rhythm's off." The artists tell him, in so many words, to mind his own P's and Q's; but their coaches agree with Livingstone, and he gathers them in his wake as he proceeds from one debacle to the next. The mouse and the coaches form Livingstone Mouse and His Insect Band to provide the necessary ingredient to make the dance a success—the beat. While the story has a pleasing progression with rhythmically repeating sequences, it also manages (in its own droll way) to convey an introduction to an entire company of animals that one might encounter in the woods, as well as a couple of sharply drawn, unusual insects: a cicada and a katydid. Cole's (The Wacky Wedding, 1999, etc.) artwork is perfectly silly, with lots of commanding <\b>two-page spreads in forest greens that make clear the laughable situations Livingstone has found. And a-one, and a-two, keep that rhythm Livingstone. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
MOOSELTOE by Margie Palatini
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

This sequel to Palatini and Cole's Moosetache (1998) continues the mildly amusing antics of Moose, the ruminant whose billowing mustache would make a walrus proud. Set mostly to rhyme, and with plenty of alliterative wordplay and flashy typeface, Moose goes about preparing for Christmas. He writes his cards. He shops and wraps. He prepares a feast and strings the swags and hangs the mistletoe: "Yessiree. Getting ready for Christmas was an absolute snap. And so simple. So easy. And if he did say so himself, Moose thought, totally, utterly, completely . . . perfectly perfect." Of course it's not. Moose has forgotten, as his mooslings unhappily point out, the tree. Where would Santa park the presents, they would like to know? So off Moose shuffles into the cold city night, where the blustery streets sport one sold-out Christmas tree stand after another. Moose returns empty-handed, but inspiration strikes: He orders his children to fetch the "tried-and-true family glop" and gob it on his mustache in such a way as to fashion him into a Christmas tree. Some tinsel, a few bulbs and lights, and voila: Moose Spruce. Palatini's story is a sweet bauble; it could even be hung on Moose. But neither it nor its flights of alliteration have any staying power. They dim and flicker and it is only Cole's images, especially the last—of a coal-black room lit only by a string of colored lights, the whites of two pair of eyes, and a ho, ho, ho—that are abiding. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
LITTLE DOGS SAY “ROUGH!” by Rick Walton
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2000

Walton (Bullfrog Pops!, 1999, etc.) works a series of rhymed changes on the idea that animal sounds are a kind of shorthand: "Little cows say, / 'Moo-oon! Moo-oon! / We would like to go there soon.' / Moo-oon! Soon! / Get them there by noon / When the cows say, 'Moo-oon!'" Similarly for young horses, snakes, and other creatures, closing with chicks chirping, "Sheep! Sheep! Sheep!" to count themselves to sleep. This is made for reading aloud, and Cole (The Wacky Wedding, 1999, etc.) adds to the fun with scenes of expressive cartoon animals barking, braying, hissing, and mooing enthusiastically. Don't expect listeners to say, "Enough!" after just one run-through. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
ROAR! by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: May 31, 2000

A lonely little lion looks for a playmate, but his friendly roaring drives all the animals away in this bland counting/color book. Having sent 1 red monkey, 2 pink flamingos, 3 orange warthogs, and so forth scurrying off, little lion at last finds 9 other yellow lion cubs, and joins them for an exuberant, stampede-inducing collective roar. The animals are easily recognizable and wear either cheery (lions) or disconcerted (everything else) expressions, but neither they, nor Edwards's rhymes—"Friendly little lion cub feels a little sad, / Plods down the pathway—pad, pad, pad."—display the imaginative sparkle of Some Smug Slug (1996), Honk! (1998) or this team's other books. Young children may enjoy the safari, but it's a routine trip over well-traveled territory. (Picture book. 4-5)Read full book review >
HONK! by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

After peering in the window at the Paris Opera House, Mimi the swan is smitten with ballet. She drives the ducks and geese crazy at the local watering hole with her arabesques and pirouettes and big splashy landings. When she glimpses a production of Swan Lake through the same window, she's thrilled. "They're all pretending to be me!" she exclaims. She makes several attempts to watch the whole production from inside the opera house, but the manager keeps throwing her out. When she slips in the stage door behind a tardy ballerina, Mimi gets to perform the entire show. She's such a hit that even the manager asks her back. Edwards's tongue-in-cheek text pokes gentle fun at self-absorbed prima ballerinas, while Cole's bold full-bleed paintings add a wealth of humorous detail. Particularly funny are the disapproving expressions on the faces of birds and balletomanes alike, and scenes of Mimi with her short skinny legs, large feathered chest, and haughty demeanor. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1998

A slap-happy counting book in which first one warthog then gradually more whip up a batch of singular cupcakes. The book proceeds as a carefree rhyme—"One little cook thinks/he'll cook today./Two clean hooves./All the germs washed away." Additional warthogs join in the preparation: Butter is churned to a froth, the flour is whirled into blizzards, the eggs hit the floor, a few pickles are added, all from numbers one through ten. The concoction is baked and consumed with relish, although it will be clear to readers that perhaps only a warthog would be so pleased with the results (the cupcakes include five scoops of butter and pickles). Cole's great toothy warthogs and manic action make for an ideal mix of comedy and energy, all the way to the end, when there are no cupcakes left (it's nice to see zero make an appearance in a counting book, as do two recipes) and the warthogs collapse from their efforts. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
I TOOK A WALK by Henry Cole
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1998

Cole's book is like a quick visit to the natural-history museum; each of four triple-page spreads resembles a diorama of old—a snapshot of a particular environment and the creatures it hosts. There are four environments—wood, meadow, stream, pond—and each is briefly introduced ("I lay down in the middle of the meadow and smelled the sweet red clover. I saw . . .") before the flap folds out to reveal a tableau. On a final page, Cole (Jack's Garden, 1995) notes the 12—15 creatures to be found on each page, a list that is almost identical to the main text but for the numbers that key the items into the pictures. Still, the book conveys the notion of community and coexistence, in artwork that is delightfully fresh. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
DINORELLA by Pamela Duncan Edwards
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

A one-note Cinderella—composed in the key of D—from Edwards, a devotee of alliteration (Some Smug Slug, also illustrated by Cole, 1996, etc.) who spins a dervish of D-words featuring dinosaurs in this fractured fairy tale and starring Dinorella and her stepsisters, Doris and Dora. Dinorella attends the Dinosaur Dance at Duke Dudley's Den, compliments of a Fairydactyl, and comes upon the endangered Duke, about to be devoured by a dastardly deinonychus. Dinorella to the rescue—she hurls a dirtball, then a diamond, at the desperado. The alliteration begins to get away from Edwards, dictating the storyline and resulting in dialogue and descriptions that prove distracting after the first few pages. The story deteriorates further with name-calling: ``dopey domestic,'' ``disgusting dummy,'' ``dimwit,'' ``dingbat,'' and ``dumbhead.'' Cole dazzles in this dumbed-down classic, which goes from hilarious to tedious in very short order. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
MOOSETACHE by Margie Palatini
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 1997

There's hair everywhere in this book because Moose just doesn't know how to control his gigantic mustache. Palatini (Piggie Pie!, 1995) has concocted scores of inventive ways for Moose to manage his ``moosetache''—everything from wrapping it around his neck and hanging it from his antlers to braiding it. Each solution trips him up worse than the last until he meets his match, the superbly coiffed Ms. Moose who shares her hairstyling secret—glue. They go wild, molding and tucking stupendous arrangements of hair, then skiing, cooking, and getting married with every hair in place. The playfulness between text and art make for a sophisticated romp; Cole creates hyperbolic spaghetti- like rivers of hair and bold bouffants. While kids will giggle at the absurdities, adults may raise an eyebrow at a scene of the couple's ``hot'' cooking. A riot. (Picture book. 2-5) Read full book review >
BAREFOOT by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 30, 1997

The story of one slave's escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad, as seen from the perspective of the watchful creatures of the night who speed him on his way. The ``Barefoot'' refers to the slave who has taken flight through dark woods, ``fearful of what lay before him [and] terrified of what lay behind.'' Heron, squirrel, mouse, deer, and frog see and hear the slave, and close behind, the Heavy Boots who pursue him. The creaking frog leads the Barefoot to fresh water, a hungry field mouse shows him which berries to eat. Finally he comes to a ``stop'' on the Underground Railroad—a cabin he recognizes by the quilt that is hanging out front. Readers will need some suspension of disbelief to determine whether the night creatures are ``helping'': Mosquitoes bite only the Heavy Boots, the deer leads the pursuers far away, lightning bugs show the Barefoot the quilt when the moon goes under a cloud. Nevertheless, Edwards and Cole (Some Smug Slug, p. 528, etc.) create a moving story that conveys the terror that drove slaves to flee plantations, risking their lives for freedom. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
SOME SMUG SLUG by Pamela Duncan Edwards
ANIMALS
Released: April 30, 1996

This duo collaborated on the alliterative Four Famished Foxes and Fosdyke (1995, not reviewed); here, a supercilious little slug struggles up a bumpy slope blocking the path through its woodland domain. Ignoring the warnings of other forest denizens (all creatures with names beginning with the letter s—sparrow, spider, swallowtail, skink, stinkbug, and squirrel), it reaches the summit, only to be devoured by the toad it has unwittingly climbed. This bit of whimsy is made memorable by the crescendo of suspense built by the relentlessly alliterative text, the ground- level illustrations of flora and fauna (highly realistic except for the self-satisfied visage of the snail and the toad licking its lips), and the presence of the other animals and S-shapes to search for in the pictures. It's fun for readers who aren't ready for Graeme Base's Animalia (1987) and great reinforcement of sound- letter correspondence for initial s and sh (both are used; soft c is not). Teachers will hope that a ``big book'' version is in the works for the classroom. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
JACK'S GARDEN by Henry Cole
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1995

Cole mimics the cumulative technique of ``The House That Jack Built'' to describe the garden the eponymous hero might tend in his backyard. In addition to entertainment, the story provides information on the ecosystem of a simple garden, layering in detail about the flora and fauna it supports. The drawings display proficiency with a colored pencil; the human figures are unimpressive, but they are also scarce—the bulk of the book is given over to birds, bugs, and plants. There are ten variations of the ladybird beetle alone, and nearly as many butterflies. The scenes can be static, but the insect specimens are interesting and accurate. Capped by a lively and elegant design, the book should supplement to an elementary science lesson; what Jack's Garden lacks in personality, it more than makes up for in attention to detail. (Picture book. 3+) Read full book review >