Books by Joan Rankin

GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE RHINOS by Joan Rankin
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 12, 2019

"A visually pleasing revision of a story that will make readers long for the bears. (Picture book. 4-8)"
An old tale with a new facade. Read full book review >
THIS IS THE CHICK by Wendy Hartmann
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 20, 2017

"A definite hit. (Picture book. 2-5)"
A South African import with echoes of "Chicken Little" and other absurd chain-of-events tales. Read full book review >
THE AFRICAN ORCHESTRA by Wendy Hartmann
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 10, 2017

"A magical tour of the natural wonders of the African continent tied with a celebration of the cultural foundations of African people who mined these sounds to create beautiful music. (Picture book. 5-8)"
In simple and magical verse, Hartmann transports readers to the beautiful landscapes of Africa with a celebration of African music and instruments and the accompanying splendid natural sounds that birthed them. Read full book review >
THE POPCORN ASTRONAUTS by Deborah Ruddell
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 24, 2015

"A scrumptious set of food-themed poems for budding gourmets, ripe for hours of read-aloud fun. (Picture book/poetry. 4-10)"
Ruddell's collection of 21 bite-sized poems whets even the littlest of literary appetites. Read full book review >
A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK by Deborah Ruddell
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 10, 2009

Twenty-three evocative poems about forest animals, beautifully illustrated. Literary variety serves this collection well, with many different lengths, rhyme schemes and moods. The common elements in Ruddell's verse are economy and an observer's respect for her subjects. Deer horns are "velvet crowns," and even the humorous poem about the beaver ("True Believer / Waterproof Weaver / Overachiever / Roll-Up-Her-Sleever") is praiseful. She avoids the cute and obvious metaphor; rather than trotting out tired masked-bandit imagery, she instead pictures the raccoon regarding his reflection: "the mysterious mask / the whiskers beneath, / the sliver of cricket / still stuck in his teeth." Other subjects include snails, a salamander, a raccoon and a hoot owl, "working on his timing / and his quavery technique." Similarly, Rankin's watercolors show respect via their accuracy and detail, while still capturing the various flavors of the poems. Her caroling coyotes look appropriately scruffy, and her feuding woodpeckers are sublimely hotheaded. A wild turkey glares at a child's hand-tracing portrait; a toad regrets eating "the slug-on-a-stick." An excellent collection with broad age appeal. (Picture book. 4-10)Read full book review >
OFF TO FIRST GRADE by Louise Borden
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2008

From Anna to Mr. Zimmerman, an alphabetical array of children, joined at the appropriate moments by their teacher, bus driver and principal, all recount the beginning of the first day of first grade. Borden's free-verse poems take the voices of each character in turn, gracefully drawing 26 distinct characters, most eager but a few somewhat apprehensive: "I wish I was going / back to kindergarten. / But I don't tell my dad," confesses Yoshi. Rankin's loose, amiable watercolors depict a zooful of critters and their families with warmth and affection. An altogether thoughtful and affirming book. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
TODAY AT THE BLUEBIRD CAFÉ by Deborah Ruddell
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 27, 2007

Ruddell's debut features 22 delightfully diverse poems taking a new view of various feathered friends. Subtitling her collection, "A Branchful of Birds," she covers a wide spectrum. There's the predictable woodpecker and owl, blue jay and cardinal, but also ibis, bobolink, vulture ("A Vulture's Guide to Good Manners") and many other less common birds. Similarly, variety reigns in the verse and approach to each subject. Lyrical imagery fills the paeans to the swan and the eagle; "Hoopoe Voodoo" is a model of wordplay drollery ("You people who pooh-pooh the hoopoe"), and "Toucan Tour Guide" depicts an adventure in Peru (in a canoe). Rankin's watercolors use a muted palette, and in nearly every case, smartly spotlight the subject bird with additional artistic detail. Her sense of humor matches Ruddell's perfectly, depicting the birds arriving at the Bluebird Café dressed in top hats or fedoras and "Good Old Puffin" defying the cold in beak-warmer and knitted cap. A refreshing step up from nursery rhyme and a terrific introduction to poetry, with a smile attached. (Picture book/poetry. 4-9)Read full book review >
A FROG IN THE BOG by Karma Wilson
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

A simple counting rhyme relates the tale of a frog who eats his way through the bog: one tick, two fleas, three flies, and so on. Eventually, he gets so fat that the "log" upon which he sits takes notice and reveals itself to be a hungry alligator. The frog's panicked scream allows the contents of his tummy to escape, and out they come, from five snails, to four slugs, back down to the one tiny tick. The appropriately folksy text is nicely complemented by pale, splashy watercolors that evoke the swampy setting perfectly. Frog, fleas, flies, and the other "meals" learn a gentle lesson—the smallest ones stay away from the frog, who therefore stays small enough himself that the gator won't pay him any attention. Since the counting only goes up and down to five and everyone is safe at the end, this is especially suitable for the youngest beginning counters. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
FIRST DAY by Joan Rankin
by Joan Rankin, illustrated by Joan Rankin
ANIMALS
Released: July 1, 2002

The first day of school is always a difficult transition for both parent and child and Haybillybun and his mother are no exception. Itemizing his problems, as he is coaxed to get ready, the preschool puppy moans that his "slip-slidey-fluffy feet" will prevent him from running and playing. Peering into the mirror, he proclaims that with his "horrible fuzzy ears," he will be unable to hear the teacher. He finishes his litany of woes by proclaiming that this full name is just too long and that he wants to be called just "Bun," but when he arrives at school, he is surprised to find that all of the other children have equally long and tongue-tying names. Returning home, Haybillybun's mother begins to go about her day, but the sight of her son's empty bedroom sends her flying back to the schoolyard to peer through the fence. Through the pickets, she sees him happily running through the playground. Later, a peek in the window shows him working quietly on a drawing. It is difficult to resist the beautiful watercolor illustrations that give such personality to the worried puppy and his friends. Children and parents alike will want to read this one again and again as they prepare for their own first day. Irresistible. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
MRS. MCTATS AND HER HOUSEFUL OF CATS by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
ANIMALS
Released: June 1, 2001

Mrs. McTats lives in a cozy cottage with only her cat, Abner, until one day visitors begin arriving wanting to stay. Each time she goes out, Mrs. McTats seems to find a few more cats to follow her home, and there is always room for one more. She names the cats alphabetically, from Abner to Yodel, and all seems peaceful until a small sound is heard at the door. Mrs. McTats opens it to discover what it was she had felt was missing: a small puppy, which she names Zoom. While the somewhat clumsy, rhyming text sets the stage, it is the wonderfully painted cats that steal the show. Soft, watery watercolors offset the cartoon-like faces and body shapes of both humans and felines. From plump to skinny, mottled to striped, on each page a few more wonderfully amusing cats seem to find their way through the "small, cozy cottage / with plenty of room." Children will want to count the cats on each page and follow their favorites through the story, particularly on the page where they are all hiding or where they are all gathered together for a group shot. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1999

A rare Great Black Cockatoo is stranded as a fledgling aboard a steamship that has been his home since birth in this funny outing from Rankin (Wow! It's Great Being a Duck, 1998, etc.). Left alone one morning, Walliwigs becomes aware that the steamship is leaving the harbor and therefore his mother, behind. He's discovered by a cabin boy and taken to a farm owned by the boy's aunt. Life in the chicken house is made bearable only with the help of Martha, a hen who loves him as her own. She recognizes his indomitable spirit and cherishes his uniqueness, warding off insensitive comments from other hens in the coop. When Professor Beak, a traveling ornithologist, takes delight in Walliwigs, the results are thrilling—he's a rare, practically extinct bird. Borrowing on the theme from the tale of the Ugly Duckling, Rankin shows again that being different is something rare and wonderful, not a thing to be feared. Her lively watercolor art captures the cockiness of audacious chickens who feel superior without reasonable justification. Children, often bullied, more often misunderstood, will find their spirits lifted by this encounter with Walliwigs. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
WOW! IT'S GREAT BEING A DUCK by Joan Rankin
ANIMALS
Released: March 1, 1998

A cumulative tale from Rankin (Scaredy Cat, 1996, etc.), as much about the choice of typeface as it is a story, falls short despite its elegant, finely detailed artwork. Lillee is the smallest and thinnest of her brood to hatch. She wears a remnant of shell on her head, obscuring her eyesight, and balks at entering the water, even though her mother cautions that something named ``Furry-legs, Long-tail, Sharp-snout, Pink-tongue Fox'' will gobble her up if she doesn't get wet. Lillee takes to walking and repeatedly encounters the fox, but doesn't recognize him. When the shock of his true identity registers, it blows the egg shard off Lillee's head, and the fox gives mortal chase. Lillee takes to the water, and the air, as never before, with instincts to duckdom that had been found wanting before the moment of truth. ``Wow! It's great being a duck!'' she chirrups, but it's not clear why fear of the fox brings the desired results when abandonment by her parent and siblings do not. The various font sizes are so aggressively manipulated that they mitigate any potential momentum. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
SCAREDY CAT by Joan Rankin
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

``I don't like GIANTS,'' reports a small quivering kitten, but Mama Meow reassures her child that this particular giant is their kindly owner, Auntie B. The narrator also dislikes crocodiles (``Auntie B.'s shoes'') and the dark forest that is really the four hairy legs of Auntie B.'s dog, Scratchpooch. When the kitten mistakes the dog's nose for an ``eensie-weensie'' spider and takes a swing at Scratchpooch, ``Kapow!'' and this scaredy cat is transformed into Tiger Cat: ``WOW!/are eensie-weensie spiders/scared of me!'' The upbeat message—that courage may be only a matter of perspective—lights up a cheerful comedy from Rankin (The Little Cat and the Greedy Old Woman, 1995), who shows Tiger, in the last scene, going nose-to-nose with a huge neighborhood dog. This lesson in assertiveness—hardly clouded by the notion that a good swat is the answer to fear—gives preschoolers a congenial view of the things that frighten the kitten in gleefully expressive illustrations; adults may gain a new sense of just how big and forbidding the world can appear to the very young. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
THE LITTLE CAT AND THE GREEDY OLD WOMAN by Joan Rankin
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

A hungry kitten meows for food and would like a small taste of the special meal the greedy old woman is preparing. When nary a crumb is offered, he tries to sneak a bite, gets caught, and is summarily chucked into the rain. A monster-sized anger swells the puss to tiger-sized proportions, whereupon he takes his hungry revenge on the old woman's fancy meal. Through a getatable text and imaginative use of typefaces, Rankin's first book pedals a couple of gentle, sensible messages: Heroism is just another word for self-confidence, and gluttons are an unsavory lot destined for comeuppance. But the real show-stealers here are the illustrations, particularly of the metamorphosing cat. With a nod to Maurice Sendak and a wonderfully controlled use of watercolor, Rankin ensures that the cat commands the page, a vital presence, from kitty to wildcat to kitty again. The timidity of the ex-greedy old woman in the last few scenes is a truly rewarding sight. There's always room on the shelf for a smart, humorous swipe at one of the grand old vices. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >