Books by Lynn Munsinger

Released: March 7, 2017

"This book needs to reject stereotypes in order to get woke. (Picture book. 4-6)"
Trouble sleeping keeps little Boris from thriving at school. Read full book review >
RAISING A HERO by Laura Numeroff
Released: Nov. 21, 2016

"A good message excellently illustrated."
A puppy named Max explains how he's being trained as a service dog in this children's picture book. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2016

"An If the Dinosaurs Came Back for modern times. (Picture book. 3-7)"
A small, light-skinned blond boy has a theory that the dinosaurs are just in hiding until the moment is right for a reappearance. Read full book review >
Released: July 21, 2015

"Halloween has not been as shivery, silly, and satisfying as in this polar romp. (Picture book. 4-8)"
While his friends busy themselves getting the igloo ready for Halloween, Tacky the Penguin is less than helpful. Read full book review >
ABC SCHOOL'S FOR ME! by Susan B.  Katz
Released: June 30, 2015

"A fun-to-read-aloud introduction to kindergarten, if not the top of the heap. (Picture book. 3-5)"
Anthropomorphized bears lead readers on a rhyming ABC tour through some typical school-day sights and activities. Read full book review >
Released: June 16, 2015

"Never underestimate the power of good, especially when it's wrapped up in as sweet a package as Ginny Louise. (Picture book. 4-7)"
A classroom's three terrors don't know what's hit them when new student Ginny Louise arrives in town. Read full book review >
Released: March 25, 2014

"A lighthearted paean to the importance of cleanliness. (Picture book. 3-6)"
Beware the Loch Mess monster! Read full book review >
Released: March 11, 2014

"Stick with the original picture book for a simple treatise on the power of literature. (Board book. 3-5)"
A gang of four friends, each a different animal, finds books to enjoy at their local library. Read full book review >
BEST FRIENDS PRETEND by Linda Leopold Strauss
Released: Jan. 28, 2014

"Toddlers and preschoolers will use these pretend ideas as a springboard to all sorts of adventures of their own conjuring. (Board book. 2-5)"
This cheerful celebration of imagination introduces two little girls—the best of friends—who like nothing better than to pretend. Read full book review >
NIGHTY-NIGHT, COOPER by Laura Numeroff
Released: Sept. 10, 2013

"As lullabies go, the familiar tunes with the new lyrics may just keep sleepyheads entertained enough for a few go-rounds, and sleep can wait. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Despite his mama's inviting, warm pouch, Cooper, a young kangaroo, is having trouble falling asleep. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2013

"With its wide variety of activities and crafts, this is sure to spark some classroom celebration ideas, though it otherwise doesn't stand out from other holiday titles. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Sam has trouble thinking of what he is most grateful for when his class celebrates Thanksgiving, and Elliott has trouble sustaining the focus on group relationships begun with Sam's first outing (A String of Hearts, 2010). Read full book review >
Released: May 14, 2013

"Another enthusiastic embrace of silliness from Antarctica. (Picture book. 3-6)"
It takes a lot of planning to put together the perfect penguin party. And even then... Read full book review >
LOTS OF LAMBS by Laura Numeroff
Released: Nov. 6, 2012

"A possibility for bedtime use, considering the soporific verse and routine (at best) 'enhancements.' (Novelty. 2-5)"
This insipid ovine litany pairs a monotonous, uninspired rhyme with poorly designed extras and bland scenes of clothed sheep at play. Read full book review >
Released: April 3, 2012

"Given a name like Gruntly, there's little to expect but greed, but this pig flies to higher ground. (Picture book. 4-8) "
Gruntly is a literal and metaphorical hog who serves as his own comeuppance in this gentle, if spirited, admonition. Read full book review >
WODNEY WAT'S WOBOT by Helen Lester
Released: Oct. 3, 2011

"This sequel will be embraced by youngsters who struggle with their speech and need some hints on how to handle the capybaras in their lives. (Picture book. 4-9)"
Wodney Wat, the lovable rodent who cannot pronounce the r sound, receives a remarkable robot as a birthday present (Hooway forWodney Wat, 1999). Read full book review >
WHAT PUPPIES DO BEST by Laura Numeroff
Released: Sept. 7, 2011

"Utterly adorable. (Picture book. 3-6)"
What's cuter than a puppy? Puppies with children, as this book effectively demonstrates. Read full book review >
ROCK 'N' ROLL MOLE by Carolyn Crimi
Released: Aug. 1, 2011

"It may not be, as Mole says at the end, 'pure platinum,' but it's not too far off. (Picture book. 4-8)"
When a friend's in need, sometimes it does come down to "Just do it," as one little mole learns. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2011

Those colorful Jellybeans bring their pep and playfulness to the great outdoors (The Jellybeans and the Big Book Bonanza, 2010, etc.). Emily (a dog) loves to dance, Anna (a rabbit) loves to read, Bitsy (a pig) loves arts and crafts and Nicole (a cat) loves soccer. Nicole, in fact, is something of a fanatic, even balancing the ball on one paw as she sleeps. The perfect place for all four girls to indulge in their passions, as well as learn about some new ones, is at Camp Pook-A-Wow. Most of the girls find their favorite pastimes there, and there's also swimming and hiking and toasting marshmallows together around a campfire. But Nicole is disappointed that soccer is not among the activities offered; she tries tennis, gymnastics and kayaking, but none of these sports goes very well for her. Thank goodness for friends and for camp counselor Mrs. Jangley-Cheezer (a tall wolf in a bright yellow uniform), who helps organize a soccer team. All the Jellybeans work together to make it a success. "Hooray for us!" The tale unfolds with warmth and reassuring humor, and Numeroff and Evans include all the relevant camp activities, making this latest Jellybeans adventure a good primer for young would-be campers. Munsinger's watercolor illustrations are bright and suggest vigor and happiness, like the Jellybeans themselves. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
BIRTHDAY ZOO by Deborah Lee Rose
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

A cheerful, rhymed birthday celebration for a young boy staged by the animals of a zoo. Rose (Into the A, B, Sea, 2000, etc.) doesn't shy away from the more unusual members of the zoo community, perhaps because they handily fit into her rhyme scheme. Tamarinds, okapi, gnus, and emus get into the act, and a host of others: " ‘Birthday today!' / reported the ray. / ‘Who is it for?' / inquired the boar. / ‘Kid with the presents,' / answered the pheasants." Each of the animals comes with the full Munsinger treatment of wispy lines, emotive faces, and plenty of goofy action. The rhymes are equally graceful—" ‘Spread out the cloth,' directed the sloth. / ‘Pass out the hats,' instructed the bats. / ‘Pour all the drinks,' gurgled the lynx." Fun can be had by covering the name of the animal speaking and having readers guess the animal name, with the illustrations providing clues. What's more, kids will get an introduction to animals that aren't found in the standard farmyard—tapirs, swifts, and all the above—in addition to revisiting old familiars: monkeys, moose, bears, and snails. (Picture book. 3-5)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2010

No matter what your passion, there's a book written just for you. Anna, a young gray rabbit, loves to read and takes a book with her wherever she goes. Her friends, though, have many different interests. Emily (a terrier) loves to dance, Nicole (a cat) loves to play soccer and Bitsy (a pig) loves to paint. They call themselves the Jellybeans, with a nod to their diversity and named after their favorite candy. When the homework assignment involves a class trip to the library to select materials for a book report, Anna is excited, but the rest of the Jellybeans are wary of this unfamiliar place. After a bit of resistance, librarian Ms. Beasley-Buzzer (a plump and motherly goose) leads each child to the perfect read, based on his/her interests. When book-report time comes, the Jellybeans stand hand in hand in front of the class, sharing their love of reading. Munsinger's watercolors depict the characters with maximum cuteness; Numeroff and co-author Evan's story is similarly warm and simple—if also unabashedly didactic. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2009

Casey offers a free-association reply to a question she heard many times as an employee of New York's Department of Environmental Protection. Are there alligators in the sewers? Of course! Pizzas are round so that the gators can get them into the manholes. The Brooklyn Bridge is strung with cables so they'll have a place to hang their laundry. They go to school in the summer, so that's where all the teachers go, too. New York isn't the only place they live, either; keep your eyes open and you could spot them in your town. In typically busy scenes Munsinger crowds plenty of gently smiling reptiles in human dress—chowing down on hot dogs, painting school buses and bedrooms orange (not yellow, as the text has it) and stealing single socks from the wash for hand puppets. The afterword supplies an enlightening, if less fanciful, look at the urban myth. Fun enough, in an ephemeral sort of way. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
CROCS! by David T. Greenberg
Released: May 1, 2008

Greenberg has mellowed some since the gleeful grotesqueries of his glorious Slugs! (1983), but his penchant for creatures creepy and crawly hasn't abated a jot. Having survived Bugs! (1997), Skunks! (2001) and Snakes! (2004), the stolid young hero decides to eschew the terrors of the city and take a vacation to a tropical island. Unbeknownst to him, the island he has chosen is quickly swarmed by crocs of every size and mannerism. Fortunately these are friendly reptiles, and even when the island itself is revealed to be a gigantic croc on its tummy, the boy is still crowned king (in a rather Sendakian twist), and everything is swell thereafter. The bouncy verse emphasizes the wry while Munsinger's pictures lighten some of the tale's darker elements, making for a perfect mix of scary and fun. For fans of the pair's previous books, this title will offer much of the same with a sweet edge entirely its own. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2008

Four disparate students plus one dance recital add up to a bundle of trouble in this collaborative effort from Evans and Numeroff. When dance enthusiast Emily meets her fellow classmates, she despairs of them ever performing together. A soccer player, a budding artist and a retiring bookworm, Nicole, Bitsy and Anna are equally perplexed by Emily's fervent love of dancing. However, a visit to her favorite candy shop provides the inspiration Emily needs to foster an esprit de corps among the unlikely foursome. Using a bag of different flavored jelly beans as an analogy for the distinctly unique but complimentary talents each girl can contribute to the recital, Emily encourages the girls to work together. Munsinger's cheerful pastel watercolors feature a cast of typically adorable characters, whose widespread interests holds appeal to a broad audience. This timely tale of forging connections despite seemingly insurmountable differences provides a light-hearted look at the power of cooperative action. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 24, 2007

Ewetopia lives among a flock of the humorless and uptight. She has an issue, too—she's uncomfortable in her own wool—but her need to hide in an outfit is carried out with a degree of panache. Still, her cohorts don't get her act, and they are positively offended when she arrives at the Woolyones' Costume Ball dressed as a wolf, which seems like a natural. When a character dressed as a sheep appears, no one's the wiser until he rips off his disguise, revealing himself as a wolf, and snatches a few ewes for supper. The wolf has an Achilles heel, though—he thinks Ewetopia is his mother. Gaining on this advantage, Ewetopia demands the wolf do a number of chores before dinner is served. He has a fit, storms out of the ball and the lambs' chops are saved. Munsinger's artwork catches the quiet to madcap moods of the book, but the usually spot-on Lester is groping for a coherent story line. The cobbled result has humorous parts—the wolf's tantrum and some enjoyable "Who's on First" wordplay. But the book fails to gel, and why any of this should result in Ewetopia's acceptance of her own true self is a mystery. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

When Webster the stork, charged with delivering babies west of New York, has a head-on collision with a hot-air balloon, his brains get scrambled. He starts delivering his precious parcels so thoroughly wrong that he could easily get a job at the postal service: The sharks get a chicken, the giraffes a hippo, the spiders a monkey, the frogs an elephant. No worry, as the Ribberts make clear: "He's not like the rest of the frogs that we know, / but Honey, he's ours, and we'll cherish him so." Much of the reason this rhymed, topsy-turvy saga feels honest and natural is that Olson's verse is never forced. Each word has a purpose, be it sheer entertainment or a an enticement to the imagination: "His ears were as big as a ship's flapping sails, / and his skin was as gray as rain clouds and nails." Munsinger's artwork is winsome and tactile—you want to grab the hippos' great fleshy snouts and give them a good squeeze. Arching over the whole muddle is the security of unconditional love. Hence, the next time young readers behave like rogue elephants in a family of damselflies, they will understand that such things happen and no one's going to be thrown from the nest. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
HUNTER’S BIG SISTER by Laura Malone Elliot
Released: Sept. 1, 2007

Hunter, a young raccoon, has already learned the hard way about friendship and sportsmanship. Here he nearly teases his sister to death before wising up. Not that his sister, whom he adores but who is rather bossy, doesn't deserve some minor torment. She's the kind of sister who, when play-acting a fairy tale, takes all the choice roles and casts Hunter as the pumpkin or the pea. Hunter's revenge, or when he's simply bored, is to mimic his sister. This drives his sister to distraction and, one day, right out of their tree house, where she takes the express lane to the ground. (Munsinger's gentle artwork takes the worst of the sting out of the fall.) Can Hunter mend his ways as he tends to his bruised sister? Can the siblings get their respective acts together without courting a personal-injury lawsuit? It's Hunter's job to learn from the experience, and he is going to step in a lot of mud before he finds his path. Like a capsized sailboat that rights itself, Hunter is self-correcting while beaming the message, "Don't do this at home, kids." (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
HUNGRY MONSTER ABC by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe
Released: June 1, 2007

Ten undisciplined monsters visit school to learn their ABCs. A little boy reading at his desk finds himself surrounded by little furry creatures with pointed teeth, long tails and rhino-like horns. The alphabet lessons are embedded in the ample rhyming narrative. The boy begins his instruction with apple and book and crayon and desk, all items close at hand. But the mischievous monsters have other ideas, turning the classroom upside-down with an experiment (E). The little boy gets into the swing, until the antics of the monsters wear him out with jumping jacks (J) and such. They even chase the teacher, Mrs. Tubbins (T). Surprise visitors provide the X, Y & Z, just before Mrs. Tubbins chases all of the monster away with . . . homework! Refreshingly, the story stands on its own, and Munsinger's ink-and-watercolor illustrations make the monsters adorable. Bonus: a pack of alphabet flash cards. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
BATTER UP WOMBAT by Helen Lester
Released: Aug. 21, 2006

"The Champs weren't," writes Lester, introducing Munsinger's hairy, delightful baseballers. Concisely so, but only from the vantage point of runs scored. Into their unsuspecting, winless ranks marches a hairy, delightful wombat (a sturdily built Australian marsupial, for those as clueless about wombats as this wombat is about baseball). The sport may bewilder the wombat, but the Champs think his name is powerfully suggestive—"Wham! Bat!"—and the wombat is tickled by baseball's allusive jargon, literally interpreting such items as "a pitcher stands on a mound," "the catcher wears a mask" and, best of all, "the hitter hits a foul," with the image coming to his mind of a chicken getting clobbered by a boxing glove. While the wombat doesn't deliver the big hits the Champs expected, he does dig them a storm cellar into which they retreat (it seems the Champs are forever retreating into one cellar or another) when a tornado invades their playing field. Comically absurd wordplay and Munsinger's typically goofy art make this an unbeatable combination. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
ZANY ZOO by William Wise
Released: March 27, 2006

Wise will drop readers fond of relentlessly pun-ishing doggerel into hog heaven with this manic menagerie. From a watermelon-loving "melon collie" to four garlic-eating rabbits making a "hares' breath escape" from Mr. Fox, each set of verses brings a fresh round of "panda-monium," "fowl play" or "otter confusion"—all of which is expertly captured in Munsinger's jovial, finely detailed watercolors. Follow this up with Charles Hoce's Beyond Old MacDonald: Funny Poems from Down on the Farm (2005), illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, for yet more sheep thrills and wordplay. After all, "one good tern deserves another." (Picture book/poetry. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 24, 2005

Lester's Tacky is tacky, though he is even more a Society of Oddfellows unto himself, a pleasing misfit among his righteous penguin cohort of Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect. Tacky is joyously oblivious of their rectitude as they prepare for the penguin Winter Games, pumping iron and skipping rope as Tacky catches a few zzz's and equips his exer-cycle with a horn and tassels, chows pizza and donuts as the others dutifully swallow their spinach (and Munsinger is perfect here, easily capturing both sniffyness and unbridled appetite). Tacky unintentionally subverts the rules of the Games, winning but losing as officials disqualify his unorthodox stratagems. Finally, his team grabs a victory despite the fact that Tacky ate the baton. A citizen of the deep cold, it's another Frost that Tacky emulates, the one who recommends the road not taken. Tacky, the clueless role model, takes it all the time. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
SEVEN SPUNKY MONKEYS by Jackie French Koller
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Koller and Munsinger are up to their monkey tricks again, with the same joyful wordplay and high-spirited artwork they brought to One Monkey Too Many (1999). Here, instead of a growing number of monkeys, they are dropping off, one by one, as the days of the week progress and as members of the tribe find love interests: "The beautiful assistant smiled / and blew a little kiss . . . / and when the monkeys left, / instead of seven, there were six." On down to none by Saturday, yet soon enough the original seven are back together, now with mates and little ones. Though the fun with counting is an added plus, the beauty of this is the harmony of art to word, both of which are delirious and soaring, with great honks of laughter that are music to the ears. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

"Winning isn't everything," coach Vince Lombardi famously said, "it's the only thing." Or is it? Elliott's story appreciates that "how you play the game" provides the crucial balance, not to mention the art and sustenance of the athlete, when one team necessarily has to lose. Raccoon mates Hunter and Stripe are back, and this time they find themselves on opposing sides in a game between their unbeaten teams. The competitive drive rears its head and they have a minor falling out. Hunter's sister provides some insight: "Sports should celebrate the amazing things we can do—no matter who wins." Hunter is mystified—it's a big step to take—but he takes it, along with Stripe, when they witness their fathers, as coaches of their respective teams, being over-competitive goofballs. Elliott neatly separates pleasure from instinct, while Munsinger's stumpy, zealous characters add the right degree of empathy and laughs. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

"Beatrice didn't like books. She didn't even like to read. More than that, she hated going to the library." Unfortunately, her older brother Henry has to do his homework there and look after Beatrice as well. Henry unsuccessfully tries to interest her in the books. She watches him work and drives him crazy. The next day, she says she'll wait for him in a big, comfy chair, but she gets bored and drives him crazy again. On the third day, Henry sees a storytime advertised and drops her off. Though she fights it, the story of Albert Mouse wins her over, and Beatrice asks to look at the book herself afterwards. When Henry comes to get her, she says, "I don't want to!" As usual Munsinger's watercolor animals—in this case, dogs—are charmingly expressive. Watching Beatrice's face as she comes around is particularly wonderful. While big people might see the end coming, the target audience will enjoy the twist and wish for further adventures. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
HURTY FEELINGS by Helen Lester
Released: Sept. 27, 2004

Fragility is a hippo and as such, she is "a solid piece of work," but her feelings are as soft as tofu. A rude comment would sink her faster than a couple pair of cement boots, but she also could read insults in a compliment: "Nice? Do you know what else is nice? Cupcakes are nice. So you're comparing me to a squishy cupcake." Boo-hoo. Such a delicate flower comes across as delightfully mirthful in Lester's tale, though not the consequences of her behavior: The other animals avoid her. Then one day—out of nowhere, really, and it's not the story's strong suit—Fragility stands up to the insults of an elephant, who threatens their ball game, without nervous collapse. Fortunately, Munsinger's illustrations prop up this teetery tale with a brace of good cheer and well-tempered comedy. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SNAKES! by David T. Greenberg
Released: May 1, 2004

A good and creepy (slithery just doesn't capture the reason your neck hairs may stand on end) story of a boy and the uninvited snakes in his life, from Greenberg (who likes his creatures on the outré side: he has also tackled insects, skunks, and, famously, slugs). What is so effective here—other than Munsinger's swarming, snaky watercolors—is that Greenberg never gets cute, but keeps the verse highly palpable: "With a horrifying rustle / Of cartilage and muscle / Very very slowly they unwind / Tongues abruptly flickering / Whispering and snickering / They wriggle off to see what they can find." Greenberg does, however, know how to mix the fanciful with the real. "Reticulated belly snakes / sea snakes, tree snakes / Peanut-butter jelly snakes / Hyperactive flea snakes." And Munsinger wraps her considerable wit around every loopy possibility, ensnaring her readers in a final constrictor-like hold. Come, child, and enjoy a snake or two, these "pyroclastic streams of melted crayon." (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 29, 2003

There certainly are a lot of scary things that might happen, but most people aren't afraid of their shampoo or their sneakers. Twitchly Fidget, a young lemur, is scared of both and much more. When his friends come to ask him to a parade, he declines for fear of getting bopped by a drumstick or sucked into a trombone. When his friends return to ask him to a marshmallow roast, he declines again for fear of getting stuck to everyone with melty marshmallows. His friends stop coming around, but Aunt Bridget Fidget swoops down to set things aright. With her own brand of tough love, Aunt Bridget shows Twitchly that just because something might happen doesn't mean it will. Lester and Munsinger have once more delivered a silly yet instructional tale sure to please generations of listeners. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 30, 2002

Pomposity gets one on the snoot when Tacky the Penguin (Tacky and the Emperor, 2000, etc.) returns to take the lead in the school play. Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect—penguins all—are staging a play for Mrs. Beakly's school. Tacky is begrudgingly allowed to join and gets the role of Goldilocks, or, in this case, Tackylocks. Their lines mastered, the penguins take to the stage in front of Mrs. Beakly's class of little fuzzy and obstreperous penguin chicks. Tackylocks gallumphs his way through the performance: chowing down all the porridge (even when it is too hot or too cold); piling the chairs atop one another to get at the cookie jar on top of the cabinet; taking a great pratfall—"A penguin full of porridge does not fall like a snowflake. ‘Cool!' cheered the Little Fuzzy Ones"—and then promptly falls asleep in the little bear's bed. The other penguins go stiffly through the motions, visibly disturbed that not all appears to be going as planned. Then Tacky explodes out of the bed and stages a pillow fight, in which all the Little Fuzzy Ones get active. The play is a crashing success; there is little wonder why, and their names aren't Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, or Perfect. Lester doesn't overdue the text, but keeps it at a crisp, droll level, and, as usual, Munsinger's illustrations catch the right proportion of absurdity and comeuppance. Another victory for oddfellows everywhere. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2002

Hunter wonders what to do when his best friend Stripe decides to be naughty at school and expects Hunter to join in on the roguish behavior. After all, as best buddies, Hunter and Stripe have always done things together; from clothes to food, their interests and activities were always on par. Elliott (Under a War-torn Sky, not reviewed) sympathetically addresses the prickly topic of peer pressure from a child's perspective, revealing how easy it is for the well-intentioned to slide into trouble just by going with the flow. Initially, Hunter finds Stripe's antics humorous and easily participates. Yet, when Stripe encourages him to destroy an art project, Hunter finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. Although he is proud of his artwork, Hunter wrecks his project, instantly feeling remorse. With the guidance of his teacher and mother, Hunter learns a critical lesson regarding the importance of staying true to one's self. Bolstered by the affirmation of the adults around him, he resolves to provide a stellar example of good behavior for his wayward pal. Munsinger's (Tackylocks and the Three Bears, below, etc.) anthropomorphic raccoons are irresistibly cute and cuddly. The accouterments of early childhood education are liberally scattered throughout the illustrations, depicting a familiar setting for young readers. Elliot does a remarkable job portraying how difficult it is for Hunter to resist Stripe's entreaties and later, not react to his teasing. Readers will readily respond to Hunter's dilemma and be reassured by his ultimate success. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
A STORMY RIDE ON NOAH’S ARK by Patricia Hooper
Released: Oct. 1, 2001

When the animals first start taking the measure of their circumstances on Noah's ark, in Hooper's (Where Do You Sleep, Little One?, p. 940) vision the food chain is a hot topic of discussion. " ‘But who can sleep,' the goat replied, / ‘With fox and wolf to sleep beside?' " Hooper's verse is wound tight as a clock spring in these early pages, and Munsinger's (Score One for the Sloths, p. 803, etc.) illustrations find the predators' eyes glinting with malice. " ‘I see in darkness,' said the cat. / ‘Like you, I spy both wren and rat.' " But as the stars wink out and the wind picks up fury, it isn't only the restless prey that the ark pitched through the storm: "The lion ceased his mighty roar / And trembled on that tilting floor. / The fearsome leopard shook with dread / Upon that rolling, rocking bed." Then the wren offers to sing her song to soothe their troubled hearts. A mouse tells a story, knowing that it makes the night less dark. The verse is now jauntier even as upper lips stiffen. "The spider said, ‘Though I am small, / Perhaps the lowliest of all' " and it proceeds to spin a web of sleep. They awaken as comrades in a peaceable kingdom, stepping to a joyous circle dance, with their great project ahead and more important things on their minds than the next mouthful. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

An amusing, if decidedly sleepy, tale of sloths and the very relaxing atmosphere of their school—an institution thrown in jeopardy by a bureaucrat of conventional stripe—from the hand-and-glove team behind Tacky the Penguin and Wodney Wat. Sleepy Valley Sloth School lives up to its name: nobody here but drowsy sloths. They snooze through their lessons—so do their teachers—through their recess, through their study hall. They sleep "until six o'clock when the custodian swept them out, and they rolled home." It was one contented educational establishment. One day a disruptive influence makes the scene: a young fireplug of a sloth named Sparky, who tries to light some fire under her classmates: " ‘Let's read a story! Hey, we could use a little music! Want to build a castle? Anyone for math? How about some poetry?' " No takers. " ‘What a bunch of bores,' " she sighs. Then a real boar pushes through the door, an operative from the Society for Organizing Sameness, come to close the school for failing in all subjects. Sparky saves the school by dazzling the organization man with feats of reading, music, math, and poetry. Who says sloths are underachievers? They're being sloths, and just how many creatures have had their name elevated to a common adjective? Only Munsinger could so perfectly catch them in all their languid glory, from the opening page when they are quite literally "just hanging around" as loose-limbed and zonked-out as anything ever seen, to as nearly awake as a sloth can get while piled up in a heap trying to pay attention. And the belly laughs induced by Lester's words will keep everyone awake. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
SKUNKS! by David T. Greenberg
Released: April 1, 2001

Master of revulsion Greenberg (Bugs, not reviewed, etc.) takes on skunks, to the merriment of his audience. "The stunkiest stank ever to stink / The stankiest stink to stunk / Far worse than a moldy garbage can / When you reach down and scoop out the gunk." Yes, the unforgettable stink of a skunk. Munsinger (Tacky and the Emperor, 2000, etc.) traipses right along behind Greenberg, following his every move, sharply animating her characters. Her colors are muted to the point of appearing washed out, so it takes the facial expressions and the comic scenarios to carry the page. Note particularly the double-paged spread of a wedding scene filled with skunk guests, a bed made completely of piles of the fuzzies, or the slapstick squirrel that's been zapped. Greenberg's scuzzy humor, on the other hand, never flags: "But the stink of a skunk / I always have thunk / Is more than a sweet bouquet / There are numerous other things (that a punk) / Can do with the heavenly spray." And he goes on to enumerate them in great detail and at the expense of sounding like a one-note song. There are times that his inventiveness fails him—"Skunks make superior sprinklers / For watering your grass" and "A hovercraft of squirting skunks / Take it for a ride" are particularly desperate—yet mostly Greenberg manages to make the fragrant nightlifer an object of mirth and high-spirited language. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Tacky, the delightful penguin who marches (or is it waddles?) to a different drummer is back in another funny and charming tale—this time involving a royal visit from the emperor. When Tacky and his five iceberg-mates learn that the emperor is coming to visit, they enter into frenzied preparations. A feast of fish-flavored food is prepared, entertainment is rehearsed, and Tacky is put in charge of the balloons. But when he blows up a really big balloon, he takes an unplanned ride and ends up on a neighboring iceberg, which, unbeknownst to Tacky, is the emperor's home. Seeing a set of very fancy clothes lying unattended and unclaimed on the ice, he puts them on and waddles back to his own iceberg. To his amazement, his five friends make a huge fuss over him, plying him with food and making sure he's amused and happy. Although Tacky doesn't realize it, his friends have mistaken him for the emperor. When the real emperor arrives, the five others are mortified that there is nothing left with which to impress him, and are exasperated with Tacky. The emperor, who turns out to be sick to death of the stuffy and formal visits most of his subjects make him sit through, has a great time with Tacky and his improvisations. Instead of the fish-flavored food that the emperor is usually offered, they have snowball cones; instead of a boring dance recital, Tacky sings his favorite silly song; and they all (even his royal highness) tell penguin jokes. The watercolor illustrations are adorable and full of humor—note especially the fish-flavored ice cream, the emperor's twinkle-toed shoes, and the double-page spread on which the penguins learn about the mistake that's been made. Children will think this book is a riot and won't even realize that a message is being delivered—a charming one about the joys of non-conformity. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Numeroff's grandmas and grandpas are lots of fun to be with in this charming flip-flop book—grandmas on one side, grandpas on the other. What grandmas do best are the same activities that grandpas do best but they do them in different ways. Grandpa's picnic is a box of pizza on a city park bench; Grandma's is in a bucolic country setting. Grandma plays cards; Grandpa plays miniature golf. They both play hide and seek, make you a hat, take you for a walk, paint, show their photographs, and teach you to dance, among other things. The point of the book, of course, is that grandparents are important because they give you lots of love. Munsinger's (Tacky and the Emperor, p. 1041, etc.) watercolor and ink drawings are wonderfully funny and warm. Her animal grandparents and grandchildren come in every size and shape. Some are quite fashionable; others are frumpy. Some are older looking, some younger. Fox, mice, elephants, raccoons and dogs dressed and acting just like people enlarge and enhance the text with their amusing representation of loving adults and children enjoying each other's company. Grandparents (and their offspring) will love this one. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2000

Twenty-one dinosaur poems and dozens of humorous drawings to delight dinosaur lovers of all ages will make this new collection a real favorite. Adults be warned: children will want these poems read aloud. Consult the helpful pronunciation guide before attempting such poems as "The Awful Three," which includes the verse: "The first was Rhamphorhynchus, / Hardly longer than your arm, / A grisly little monster / With very little charm." While the rhymes are sometimes forced—for example, "ungracious" "Cretaceous"—it's hard not to smile at the toothy vaudevillian T. Rex with straw hat and cane doing a soft shoe. The picture book set will giggle at the variety of urban dinosaurs in costume and clothing, lumbering though the city with Walkman, cell phone, running shoes, and skateboards. The author of Ten Sly Piranhas (1993) presents the familiar dinosaurs: T. Rex, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Triceratops, and the less familiar Gorgosaurus. While children will pick their own favorites, the last poem, "Dinosaurs Forever," will speak to all: "… But as long as there are those of us / Who love ‘The Beast that Roars,' / No matter what the experts say— / There will always be Dinosaurs!" (Poetry. 5-9)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 31, 1999

PLB 0-06-027359-3 The timorous specter from this team's The Teeny Tiny Ghost (1998) reappears for a thrilling, hair-raising adventure. Woefully faint- hearted, the teeny tiny ghost knows he must practice being brave and in the school yard he valiantly faces the intimidating playground slide. However, when he returns home to discover empty rocking chairs moving on their own, mysteriously billowing draperies, and rattling chains, the apprehensive apparition's courage is tested. Winters's suspenseful story lends itself to a rousing recital at story hours; the steadily building tension as the diminutive spirit searches the house will generate delightful shivers, while the prosaic climax, in which it is revealed that Cousin Brad is completing his "hide and haunt" homework, prevents the tale from becoming too frightening for a younger audience. Munsinger's merry illustrations, overflowing with many humorous touches, contribute to this gleefully boisterous tale. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1997

After being repeatedly thrashed at checkers, Mouse suggests to Cat a game of crazy eights. Cat insists on checkers, and Mouse huffs off homeward. Cat places an advertisement for a new best friend in the newspaper. Mole responds, but he's a chowhound who makes a hash of Cat's checkerboard. ``You cannot be a slob and be my best friend,'' Cat states. Next comes Otter, a hyperactive sportsman who causes a commotion by hurling balls around Cat's house before he is shown the door. Last comes Raccoon, a skateboarding enthusiast, who nearly kills Cat by sending him skittering into heavy traffic on a board, then laughs when Cat crashes. ``You cannot laugh at me and be my best friend.'' Cat and Mouse reunite—for a game of crazy eights. Munsinger's watercolors add charm to the tale, whose ending will be clear to most preschoolers from the outset. If, as Monson (The Secret of Sanctuary Island, 1991, etc.) suggests, the making of friends is an exercise in mutual concessions, Cat is less than accommodating toward Mole and Otter (skip mean-spirited Raccoon). The final lesson is exclusionary: ``Best friend'' means the friend Cat can best tolerate in a field of rejects. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1996

Princess Penelope's Parrot ($14.95; Oct. 1996; 32 pp.; 0-395-78320-8): A routine, predictable morality tale: Despite selfish Princess Penelope's threats and demands, her new parrot refuses to talk—until Prince Percival pays a call. The parrot drives him away by repeating Penelope's words verbatim, then later joins him on the beach, leaving the unedified Princess preparing to hook the next prince who happens along. Any interest that Munsinger's familiar cartoon figures spark will quickly disappear beneath the heavy lesson and trite plotline. (Picture book. 5-7) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1994

Ollie is Herbert's brother; and when the O'Hare family flies to New York for a vacation, the younger bunny finds his superior knowledge (how to fasten a seatbelt, read a menu, or open his eyes underwater in the hotel pool) particularly grating. When Ollie is separated from the others on the subway, Herbert's first reaction—``Can I be the oldest now?''—soon gives way to anxiety. Fortunately, Ollie's smarts are real; he finds his own way back to the hotel, where Herbert and his worried parents are equally glad to see him. Even Ollie is mellowed by his experience, and offers to teach Herbert to open his eyes underwater. The scenario here is familiar but its development is unusually imaginative, with amusing dialogue deftly revealing characters' feelings, the two brothers' rivalry adding interest to the city tour, real suspense, and a satisfying outcome. Munsinger's animals are marvelous caricatures of human types, at once incisive and sympathetic; her subway scenes, with a multitude of species reluctantly pressing together, are a delight. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
JUST A LITTLE BIT by Ann Tompert
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

With a nifty fillip of scientific principle, a delightful variant on such tales as ``The Turnip,'' where the last, smallest creature's help accomplishes a goal. Here, Elephant wants to seesaw—with Mouse; but though Mouse pushes down hard, nothing happens. Other animals offer to help, lugubriously piling onto Mouse's end, while amused bystanders comment, offer advice, and are just about to leave (``They'll never do it...Let's go!'') when a flying beetle tops the pile and tips the balance. Tompert makes the most of the situation in her beautifully tuned dialogue; but Munsinger takes the prize here with comical renditions of the improbable antics and hilarious facial expressions of assorted playground/zoological types. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1993

Nice old mouse couple Frances and Ralph scurry about preparing for their charge—the bunny's just a baby, but bigger than they are; and though they've ``baby-proofed,'' Benjamin's leaps and ``PLAY!'' cause mayhem. His second visit is equally unnerving—``The problem is he likes to play with everything...[but] not everything likes to play with him.'' The mice wise up: next time, they show Benjamin into their yard, now well equipped with a sandbox—as well as carrots ready to pull. Once Benjamin has had a chance to run and play to his heart's content, he's ready to settle down indoors to share a book. This wholesome message is appealingly packaged with amusingly wry dialogue and disarming illustrations of the irrepressible little rabbit—not only bigger than the mice but once, in a cross section of their cozy two-story home, literally everywhere at once. (Picture book. 3-8) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

A welcome companion to A Zooful of Animals (1978): 45 poems, from sources old and new, many of them spread over several pages as Munsinger elaborates on the humor in loving detail. Whether capturing the bemused expressions of a kangaroo and an opossum comparing notes on being marsupials, following the comical disasters in Daniel Pettiward's ``Pets,'' or presenting A. B. Paterson's lonely ``Old Man Platypus,'' she brings imagination, a perceptive eye, and warm good humor to her appealing pen and watercolor illustrations. Cole has rounded up a fine supply of poems, mostly humorous; a few provide a welcome challenge with their vocabulary and intricate rhythms (e.g., Geoffrey Dearmer's ``The Giraffe,'' which merrily echoes W. S. Gilbert); most have a more immediate popular appeal. A winning collection. (Note: as is customary, the acknowledgments serve the legalities but frustrate the reader who cares about sources. Dates would be nice; so would designating poems first published here.) Index. (Poetry/Picture book. 3-10) Read full book review >
RABBIT'S BIRTHDAY KITE by Maryann Macdonald
Released: June 3, 1991

Hedgehog has made Rabbit a grand kite, but Rabbit is too impetuous—his eager attempts to fly it without a tail, and then in the woods, end in mishaps that Hedgehog patiently shows him how to right. At last the kite takes flight, on the beach—and breaks its string. Now it's Hedgehog's turn to be discouraged, but Rabbit has profited by his previous good example: ``Don't worry, we can make a new kite. You can show me how.'' Purposeful, but gracefully phrased in natural cadences; Munsinger's little characters are endearingly expressive. Another fine ``Bank Street Ready-Read'' (Level 2). (Easy reader. 4-8) Read full book review >