Books by Joyce Dunbar

GRUMPY DUCK by Joyce Dunbar
Released: March 5, 2019

"To wash away a stubborn case of the grumps, skip this and pick up Claire Messer's Grumpy Pants (2016) instead. (Picture book. 4-6)"
A disgruntled duck brings a dark cloud upon her friends. Read full book review >
PAT-A-CAKE BABY by Joyce Dunbar
Released: June 9, 2015

"A sweet confection through and through, from the glitter on the cover to the nonpareils on the endpapers. (Picture book. 4-7)"
Released: July 1, 2013

"Whether or not young listeners are familiar with the origin of her names, the evocation of the two sides of a familiar and beloved pet will resonate. (Picture book. 4-7)"
This slim British import, which combines beautiful artwork and brief, poetic text, seems more likely to appeal to adult cat lovers than to young listeners, but the dichotomy at its heart may be intriguing to some children, and the lush language pleases the ear and offers plenty to discuss. Read full book review >
ODDLY by Joyce Dunbar
by Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Patrick Benson
Released: May 1, 2009

A quirky cast of characters befriends a lonely child in this unusual story of belonging. Each creature, isolated and perplexed, meets a lost boy who wanders into their imaginary world. They give the child their cherished possessions to comfort him, and he thanks them accordingly. "Love is what makes you better," explains the boy. The story's strength is in Benson's physical representation of the child's confidantes; the trio resembles colorful, lovable rodents with their pointed snouts, winding tails and protruding bellies. Their endearing expressions add an emotional depth to the fantasy, and the nondescript setting, with its dry, sandy soil and pointed, purple brambles, turns the audience's focus to the characters' interactions. The pointed dialogue occasionally descends into the saccharine, as do the critters' names, which reflect their corresponding feelings: The Oddlet becomes a Huglet, the Strangelet turns into a Snuglet and the Lostlet changes his name to Foundlet. While the narrative's repetitive elements result in strong pacing, the resolution's abruptness yields a blemished, if intriguing, overall presentation. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2008

Though bedroom monsters are a dime a dozen, this one's a bit different. Looking like a black wombat with a bright-red clown nose, the Creature that lurks under wakeful young Jo-Jo's bed is but the size of an ant. A hungry one, however, who starts absorbing all the darkness it can find. Going the "Fat Cat" route, the monster proceeds to swell as it sucks the dark not just from the bedroom but from the entire world and beyond—leaving confusion and dismay in its wake, until "There were no shadows and hardly any dreams. There was only the light. The stark and staring light." Liao, a popular Taiwanese illustrator, creates polished, sometimes wordless cartoon scenes featuring a monster whose only scary characteristic is its eventual humongous size. Ultimately Jo-Jo's tears draw the behemoth back to Earth, where a cuddle and a "darkness lullaby" puts them both to sleep and allows all the darkness to leach back into the universe. Not exactly entropy in action, but a cozy, if lengthy, bedtime tale nonetheless. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
MOONBIRD by Joyce Dunbar
by Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Jane Ray
Released: Aug. 1, 2007

From the magical land of the silvery bubble-blowing Moonchild, a bubble popping in little Prince Orla's ear suddenly makes him profoundly deaf. His worried, joyless parents hire several ineffectual fools to restore their son to their hearing world. The most ridiculous looking one is ready to tie elephant-sized ears on the prince's head. The royal soothsayer understands immediately that the child comprehends the world with his eyes, and the soothsayer is commandingly credible, because he wears magical symbols: star, tree and bird. Graceful Moonbird comes to the rescue, flying the prince to a magical school where a gazelle and silver monkey teach him "eye music," and tell him he can teach his parents hand talking and silent mouthing. However, his parents are clueless until Moonchild blows an enormous bubble that bursts over their kingdom, changing their intricate yet barren landscape and their hearts. Ray's luminous art and lyrical text are heavy with symbolism: Those who understand sign language and the powers of observation are adorned in the most silver trees, birds and stars, and others find adornment as they learn. Young readers will understand with help the clear message that sign language education for children who are deaf is essential to their healthy growth, and that it is a tremendous step forward for all people to increase their observation skills to learn it. But this heavy, controversial message won't be swallowed easily. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
WHERE’S MY SOCK? by Joyce Dunbar
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

In an endearing tale of socks lost and found, Pippin's lost sock makes him very angry; none but the matching yellow sock with clocks on it will do. So, he and his pal Tog set out to find the stray. Along the way, the two ponder all the sad, lost socks there are in the world: "All the odd socks. Socks with holes in the toes. Socks that nobody wants to know." The duo teams up to find as many of these sad socks as they can, and ends up with a huge pile culled from under cushions, inside washing machines and stuffed in shoes. With the help of a four-page foldout laundry line they find matches for ones with stripes, ones with polka dots, short ones and long ones, but none that are yellow with clocks. When the pals decide that the only thing to do is to wear odd socks, Tog finds he already is—and guess what one of them looks like! Rescek's brightly hued illustrations are a delight—Pippin and Tog are adorably fuzzy and just as colorful as their socks. Young readers will marvel at the sheer number of different patterns on the socks and enjoy matching them. A great tale of determination and creative problem-solving. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SHOE BABY by Joyce Dunbar
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

"There once was a baby / Who hid in a shoe / And had learned how to say, ‘How do you do?' " Thus begins the rollicking, rhyming, Edward Lear-style story of the adventures of the rosy-cheeked Shoe Baby. First, the happy toddler goes to sea in the shoe and meets a dolphin and a wonderfully peculiar, man-headed octopus with crazily patterned arms. (The "sail-away" baby says "How do you do?") The baby flies, sings and even has tea with the Queen and King in the shoe. When he falls asleep in the shoe, "So dozy, so cozy, / So tickety-boo," he dreams of a pink cockatoo until a giant and giantess come by boo-hoo-hooing about a lost shoe (the giant) and a lost baby (the giantess). Baby wakes up, grows right out of the shoe, and pops up to say "Hi, Papa! Hi, Mama! How do you do?" Polly Dunbar's delightful mixed-media collage illustrations of eccentric creatures great and small burst forth with as much glee as the text in this contagiously exuberant mother-daughter collaboration. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2003

There's one in every clutch—a nonconformist who's simply not content to toe the line. Saturday, the seventh of orderly Mother Hen's otherwise tractable chicks, wants to know when he will swim and bob like the ducks, hiss and honk like the bug-eyed geese, or sing and fly as the blackbird does. Unsatisfactory explanations leave Saturday to learn the hard way that all the wanting in the world won't turn a chick into a gosling. Although it will hardly pass muster as science—hens do not lay multicolored eggs (perhaps Mother Hen is a brooder?), and cockerels are not born with combs—this gentle life lesson of pursuing one's potential without wishing for what cannot be is well-organized, offering readers the chance to predict Saturday's dilemmas and to chime in on several of Mother Hen's refrains. Loose watercolor-and-pencil pictures and a touch of appropriately "scratchy" calligraphy put readers in the right farm—uh, frame—of mind to sympathize with Saturday and to applaud when he finally cock-a-doodle-doos. (Picture book. 2-5)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Wee Willa and her older brother Willoughby return in a poignant tale about growing up. When Willa springs awake at the crack of dawn, she tries to rustle up some breakfast on her own. Alas, despite her best endeavors, she is just too small, so up the stairs she goes to recruit her older brother. Bleary-eyed but resigned, Willoughby helps his younger sibling, entertaining her with tales of what it will be like when she's big. Dunbar (The Very Small, 2000, etc.) fills the story with wry humor: in a stratagem worthy of any political candidate, Willa nimbly gets Willoughby to wash the breakfast dishes. Many other slyly humorous references abound, such as the pair walking "paw in paw." Yet it soon dawns on Willa that growing up entails a bit more than she's ready for—too much independence, no toys, etc. A comforting early-morning snuggle with mom restores Willa's equanimity and the siblings soon drift off to sleep, safe in the embrace of their mother. Dunbar's tale evokes all that is wonderful about sibling relationships: the gentle guidance, loving support, and the deep bonds that develop. Gliori's full-page, full-bleed illustrations truly capture the poignant whimsy of the tale; the gentle sweeping curve of an ear, the sweet expressions, all conveying a wealth of love and emotion. Suffused with warmth, this inviting tale is perfect for snuggling up and sharing with a loved one. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
THE VERY SMALL by Joyce Dunbar
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

A tiny, fey woodland creature and an oversized baby bear form an unlikely friendship in this bewitching tale. Dunbar crafts a tale about the magic of friendship and the generosity of spirit it inspires. Giant Baby Bear discovers a very young, lost little creature in the woods and dubs him "the Very Small." In an effort to soothe his apprehensive companion, Giant Baby Bear takes it home. However, the comforts of Baby Bear's home prove dubious to the Very Small, who is alarmed by Mommy Bear's oversized teeth and Daddy Bear's huge face. Baby Bear willingly offers to share all that he has with the Very Small and even creates a miniature play area to entertain the tiny creature. Soon the two are sharing everything from dinner to a dip in the tub together. It takes a Giant Baby Bear-sized sneeze to return the foundling to its home, catapulting the Very Small out of bed and into the welcoming embrace of its own family. Dunbar's gentle tale resonates with the grace and beauty of unselfish friendship. Gliori's beguiling illustrations are in complete harmony with the tale, shining with the tenderness of the story. Full-page, full-bleed watercolor illustrations are done in a blend of light and bold hues; soft pastels convey the snug warmth of the Bear household while richly colored earth tones dominate the forest scenes. Fetching drawings depict the Very Small as a diminutive, faerie-like creature while Baby Bear's stocky body is evocative of a large, ursine toddler. A delightfully whimsical and inviting tale that's perfect for cuddle time. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 1999

In the new Read Me/A Panda and Gander Story series, Gander decides to write a letter, and Panda can't help but notice the proceedings and inquire about them. Panda learns that Gander is writing to a "secret" friend, and even as the bear urges the bird to be more loving in the way the letter is signed'suggesting the inclusion of three kisses and a big red heart—he stews over his own suddenly shaky friendship. When Gander wildly adds stickers and border art to the missive, Panda is quite taken aback, wondering who the secret friend is. Gander sends the letter off (in a slit in a shoebox) and when the letter "arrives," it is addressed, of course, to Panda. Dunbar (see review, above) is especially astute at picking up on the emotional nuances of how children interact. Younger listeners will understand better than he does Panda's drooping self-esteem and fear that a new friend has replaced him in Gander's eyes. Craig's illustrations are expressive—a dash of eyebrow communicates Panda's uncertainties—while backgrounds and a scattering of project paraphernalia (stickers, scissors, colored pencils) convey the child-size realm the two friends inhabit. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
EGGDAY by Joyce Dunbar
Released: March 15, 1999

Dunbar (Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep, 1998, etc.) joins Helme Heine (The Most Wonderful Egg in the World, 1983) and Mary Jane Auch (The Easter Egg Farm, 1992) in serving up with gusto a cast of unusual egg producers. When Dora the duck announces "Tomorrow is Eggday," Pogson the pig, Humphrey the horse, and Gideon the goat are puzzled as to how they will lay a pig egg, a horse egg, and a goat egg in their respective efforts to win the contest. The instructive Hetty Hen, a true egg-layer, quickly sets them straight, lending her own eggs, which they decorate for the contest. As expected, Dora the duck's own egg hatches overnight, and she declares a new holiday—Duckling Day. Cabrera transforms the farmyard plot with a pleasingly free-form style and candy-bright colors. Every page bristles with color; brush strokes, dots, blots, and thumbprints create multi-layered scenes that fairly sing. (Picture book. 3-6) Read full book review >
THIS IS THE STAR by Joyce Dunbar
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

This Is The Star ($16.00; Oct. 1996; 36 pp.; 0-15-200851-9): A cumulative rhyme that simply and gracefully tells the Nativity story, with intensely dramatic full-bleed oil paintings to illustrate each element—star, shepherds, angel, stable, Christ child, wise men, and all the rest. Blythe's effects are riveting, from the pointillist shimmer of starlight to the rough textures of the shepherds' cloaks to the gigantic phosphorescent apparitions of angels. He and Dunbar (Seven Sillies, 1994, etc.) do full justice both to the glory and to the simple humanity of the Christmas story. (Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >
SEVEN SILLIES by Joyce Dunbar
Released: March 1, 1994

Pig looks in the pond and sees ``Such a handsome pig!'' Called to admire it, Sheep sees the pig plus ``a beautiful sheep!'' So it goes, as a ``gorgeous'' goat, a ``splendid'' rabbit, and an equally superlative hen and mouse join the others. Seeing them gazing at their own reflections, Frog tricks them: there are ``seven sillies'' in the pond, he says, and they can only get out if the animals jump in to help them. So they do; then, feeling foolish, the six count themselves. Frog, it seems, got it wrong—but since that makes him silly too, he's right after all. Downing renders the animals in a luminous, precise style that recalls Anthony Browne's art; set in a beautifully composed countryside, they are every bit as handsome as they imagine themselves to be. Simple and deliciously comical: a real winner. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1992

In an elaboration on the model set forth in Flack's Angus and the Ducks (1930), four kittens brave the world. Each tries to scare a farm animal with the sound of a jungle animal, but comes up with only an ineffective ``miaow''; in the end, they're all chased by geese—but then, hissing and spitting, manage to frighten a pup. Several animal voices are neatly worked into the nicely shaped story, affording young listeners a chance to join in; in the simple pen and watercolor illustrations, the animals are lively and genuinely cute, without sentimentality. A good choice for the youngest story group. (Picture book. 2-6) Read full book review >
LOLLOPY by Joyce Dunbar
by Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Susan Varley
Released: March 31, 1992

An appealing story with a plot that's sort of a cross between The Velveteen Rabbit and Blueberries for Sal: Since she's not supposed to go into the woods alone, Sophie takes her toy bunny (Lollopy) with her, but forgets him while she's picking bluebells. Lollopy is discovered by real little rabbits, who take him deeper into the woods (where they're not supposed to go) and drop him after frightening each other with ``Bogey-Rabbit'' stories. Next day, Lollopy's ear is torn—a fox? Mother Rabbit mends him and leaves him by a tree; Sophie and her mother come back, find him, and are puzzled: `` `Who could have patched him up?' `And who made him a bluebell chain?' '' Varley's pen-and- watercolor illustrations are a gentle and expressive match for the graceful, economical text. (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >