Books by Jonathan Allen

Released: April 18, 2017

"A top-notch campaign examination. If, like so many others, you wonder what on earth happened in November 2016, this is all the explanation you need."
An in-depth dissection of Hillary Clinton's second campaign for the presidency, a failure on many counts—except, of course, that of the popular vote. Read full book review >
I'M NOT READING! by Jonathan Allen
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 5, 2013

"Fun and reassuring. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Baby Owl's plan to read a story to his toy, Owly (not the delightful comic-book character, but adorable just the same), turns viral. Read full book review >
DON'T COPY ME! by Jonathan Allen
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2012

"Young children acquainted with the pleasure of conspiring to annoy an older child and those who've suffered the indignity of being made fun of will enjoy seeing just who outsmarts whom. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Here's Little Puffin, minding his own business and enjoying a walk when a trio of impish gull chicks turn up and start mimicking his every move. Read full book review >
“I’M NOT SANTA!” by Jonathan Allen
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 23, 2008

Allen continues his amusing series about the ridiculously cute Baby Owl who in previous outings has declared himself "not cute!" and "not scared!" (2006, 2007). In this third offering, Baby Owl is wearing a Santa hat and pulling his stuffed-owl toy on a sled. Enter Baby Hare, who decides that Baby Owl must be Santa. An absolutely hilarious exchange follows as Baby Owl repeats that he is not Santa, Baby Hare insists that he is, the hare cries, the owl gives in and then the whole process is reversed until both are in tears. Can there be any doubt that these critters are two-year-olds? Only Santa himself can end the fuss, in a cameo appearance; he appears as just a pair of big black boots and furry red pants, in striking contrast to the tiny animals. Allen's simple but effective illustrations, with their heavily outlined characters, are a perfect match to his simple but effective story, and he has toddler sensibilities down to a T. Carry on, Baby Owl, and tell us what else you're not. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
THE LITTLE RABBIT WHO LIKED TO SAY MOO by Jonathan Allen
ANIMALS
Released: March 3, 2008

Allen's big, simple pictures of smiling farm animals give this invitation to a collective Moo-Along unusual appeal. Because "rabbits don't have a big noise," Little Rabbit belts out a "MOO." This draws Calf, who asks if Rabbit has any other noises. The two proceed to "BAAA" until Lamb comes along—whereupon the three snort "OINK OINK OINK." In the illustrations, the sounds take up more and more space as the chorus swells; even very young audiences will pick up on the simple pattern quickly and be ready to join in as successive creatures appear. In the end, all decide that they like their own sounds best—except for Little Rabbit, who signals a continuing exploration of alternate voices with a mighty "WOOF!" Tales of animals with lost or mixed-up calls aren't exactly rare on library shelves—Ivor Baddiel's Cock-a-Doodle Quack! Quack! (2007), illustrated by Allie Busby, is just one of several recent examples—but this one is a particularly crowd-pleasing iteration. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
“I’M NOT SCARED!” by Jonathan Allen
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 2007

Baby Owl—accompanied only by his trusty toy owl, Owly—is out at night, sans parents, for the first time, and if he feels a bit frightened, he certainly isn't going to admit it. As Baby Owl meets an array of woodland animals—Badger, Bear, Bat and finally Papa Owl—each tells him not to be scared. "I'm NOT scared!" Baby Owl replies with a wide-eyed look. "It's Owly who's scared," he finally tells Papa. Papa is happy to soothe Owly and Baby Owl as well. As the sun comes up, he reads Baby Owl a book, tucks in the two intrepid adventurers and reminds Baby Owl that it's okay to be afraid of the dark. "Papa means you, Owly," Baby Owl says, keeping up a brave front and drifting off to sleep. Young children will find comfort and a chuckle in this simple, quiet story, and the charming pictures perfectly depict Baby Owl's sense of independence and bravado. A nice choice for youngsters just starting to explore the outside world. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
“I’M NOT CUTE!” by Jonathan Allen
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2006

Baby Owl sets out to explore the woods. Rabbit spies him and finds him so adorable that she has to hug him and tell him he's cute. Baby Owl takes umbrage. He's not cute! He's a "huge and scary hunting machine." Fox sees Baby Owl displaying his wings and claws and thinks it's a cute dance; Fox hugs him too. When Squirrel comes along and does the same, Baby Owl runs to Mom for reassurance. She affirms his raptor nature and tells him he's not cute—which sets off a tantrum. He's her baby, and he IS cute. Mom realizes he's tired and tucks him in saying, "You're so cute . . . For a huge, sleek, scary, sharp-eyed hunting machine." Prolific British author/illustrator Allen's large-eyed cartoon critters are endearing, and he has nicely captured the toddler animus with Baby Owl's flip-flopping attitude. Young listeners will recognize themselves without realizing it; their parents will smile knowingly. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
THE LITTLE RED HEN by Jonathan Allen
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

One feckless, lazy citizen of the farmyard after another is revealed in this well-crafted, amusing novelty. Yes, this is the same tale of the Little Red Hen who tries to enlist help in sowing, harvesting, and milling the corn to bake her bread. No one is interested; mostly hidden behind flaps—though exposed appendages give them away to both the LRH and the reader—are the lazybones: a turkey cleaning his nails, a cat lolling in the sun, a duck in the muck. Here, rather than blandly getting on with her drudgery, the LRH has a few choice words with her idle mates: "Hello Catty. You'll help me water the corn, won't you?" "Eh? Not me Henny, I'm far too busy!" "Busy doing what?" These zingers keep the traditional LRH's plodding sanctimony at bay, while the lush, character-filled art vivifies the timeworn tale. If self-righteous versions of this story find you hoping the hen chokes on her bread, Allen's will have you hoping it's delectable. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
BEATEN BY A BALLOON by Margaret Mahy
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1998

Mahy (Boom, Baby, Boom, Boom!, 1997, etc.) takes aim at weapons fixation in this madcap picture book. Mr. Appleby rejects his son Sam's pleas to make or buy him violent toys, although it means that both have to put up with sneers from well-armed neighbor Hacky Mackie and his father. Laden with marketplace purchases, the Applebys are standing in line behind the Mackies at the bank when in springs (literally, attached to his feet) Buckbounder the bank robber. The Mackies fall to their knees in terror, but Sam distractingly pops a balloon, his father jams a chocolate cake up Buckbounder's nose, and Sam administers the coup de grÉce with a flowerpot. The dazed robber is led off in cuffs, and the Applebys collect a big reward. This tale is not exactly a triumph of nonviolence, but offers the insight that pacifism does not equal helplessness; Allen's vigorous, broadly comic illustrations complement the no-frills story nicely. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

This variation on the Sleeping Beauty story uses sound and motion to good effect—such good effect, in fact, that it may be too raucous for quieter institutional settings. Prince Egbert attempts to awaken Sleeping Beauty through various noisy devices—whistle, cymbals, electric guitar, gong, and jackhammer—before giving up in despair. It's his assistant, Kelvin, who in the act of gentle leave-taking awakens the princess with a kiss, and wins her hand in marriage. A pull on one of several paper tabs activates an electronic sound to accompany each pop-up action, from the rumble of a jackhammer to the peal of wedding bells, with Kelvin's extended smooch a highlight. This is silly slapstick for the ears, assured by its engineering to be popular. (Pop-up. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE BEAR WHOSE BONES WERE JEZEBEL JONES by Bill Grossman
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

As Grossman (The Banging Book, 1995, etc.) would have it, when a bear hops out of his skin to go snorkeling, Jezebel jumps in, and creates mayhem when people take her for a real grizzly. She scares her class and her mom, and then is dismayed to find that only the bear can unzip the suit. Luckily, the zoo animals see her own eyes peering from inside the bear's throat, and know she's an impostor. An elephant and a little dog help retrieve the bear's bones and free Jezebel. The rhyme starts out catchy, but sags in the middle, along with the plot. What works best here is the eccentric idea of a bear's bones taking a dip; Allen doesn't really explore this in the illustrations, which show a jumble of bones that looks like something the dog dug up, rather than a skinless bear who has been snorkeling. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
BRUCE THE BALDING MOOSE by Corinne Mellor
ANIMALS
Released: Nov. 1, 1996

Bruce The Balding Moose ($13.99; Nov. 1996; 20 pp.; 0-8037-2064-5): Bruce is bald because his antlers have fallen off again—an annual event, to be sure, but this time it coincides with a big dance. Traditional baldness cures don't help, so readers may apply a TV antennae, a fuzzy bear cap, and a pair of polka dot pajamas to Bruce's pate as remedies. A chandelier ends up being the best toupee of all. Cartoonish scenes of a woeful Bruce make this is a fun book, but some of the parts tore on the first try, and the pieces are difficult to fit in a storage envelope. Imaginative, not sturdy. (Pop-up. 4-7) Read full book review >
THE RED DRAGON by Stephen Wyllie
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

A fairly sturdy, unusually well-designed ``3-D Picture Book with Press-Out Disguises,'' with a somewhat predictable story that's still of markedly better quality than most pop-ups. After a landslide closes Red Dragon's cave, he hops on his motorcycle, finds a new place, then dons disguises (provided, with slip-in tabs) to seek food from his new neighbors. Unfortunately, his clothing does nothing to soften the effect of begging hamburger from a cow and lamb chops from a sheep; finally getting their outraged message, he tries grass, finds it to his liking, turns green, and begins a new life with new friends. Even without the clever paper engineering, Allen's brash caricatures and bright colors make this an entertaining offering. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
THE THREE LEGGED CAT by Margaret Mahy
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 1993

The premise may be slight, but the witty Mahy makes use of it with her usual panache. Tom the cat yearns to travel, but is kept home by a peg leg. His mistress, Mrs. Gimble, a sedate widow, would prefer an even quieter cat, one that slept all the time. When her footloose brother Danny turns up for his annual visit, an inadvertent swap—Danny puts Tom on his bald pate instead of his scruffy, molting hat—leaves all three happier: Tom gets to see the world; drifter Danny is glad to share his sausages with the wonderfully warm new companion he wears on his head; and Mrs. Gimble has "never had a better cat...cheap to keep, and always asleep." Allen's cheerfully bug-eyed characters, plenty big and bold enough to share with a group, wonderfully extend the merriment. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
WHO'S AT THE DOOR? by Jonathan Allen
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1993

It's the shifty-eyed wolf at the pigs' door, but neither his several disguises (a blowzy old lady; a policeman) nor the mendacious reasons he offers for coming in (``I've locked myself out...Can I...use your phone?''; ``There's a suspicious old lady in the area'') deceive the three pigs; once they've had enough, they concoct their own disguise and frighten the wolf away with a satisfyingly clever role reversal. Allen (who perpetrated the comical illustrations for Mahy's The Great White Man-Eating Shark, 1990) extends the fun with split pages representing the pigs' door, which opens to reveal each new disguise. A winning and funny variation on an old theme. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
BURTON AND STANLEY by Frank O’Rourke
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1993

A children's book debut by a prolific author of sports stories and westerns. Somewhere on the Chicago & Northwestern line in 1935, Mr. Kraft, Cherrygrove agent, notices two ``wildly disheveled and preposterously ugly'' birds perching on his depot chimney. Kraft, who knows his bird books, promptly identifies them as marabou storks, mysteriously far from home. He even knows they're mute but can clatter their bills, as they proceed to do in what he recognizes as Morse code. Conversing in the manner of colonial gentlemen—but telegraphically, of course—they explain: ``Funnel swallowed us...had brief glimpse Kilimanjaro lower left rear before blown west on fierce horizontal wind.'' Ultimately, it's important for Burton and Stanley to go home—winter, hunting season, and a nearby zoo all threaten. The birds can't fly as far as Africa, but passage is arranged on a ship from the Gulf Coast. What's fun here are the whimsically erudite repartee and tongue- in-cheek descriptions of down-home midwesterners and the flocks of birds that rally round to help. Not as amusing or well plotted as King-Smith's Harry's Mad (1987), but a charming readaloud for a similar audience. Allen's wide-eyed pen-and-ink caricatures add to the humor. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >