A worthy idea presented without flair.

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A DIFFERENT STORY

A rhinoceros and a rhinoceros beetle feature in this picture book imported from Spain.

Striving for more wisdom than the story delivers, author/illustrator Serra uses the rhinoceros and the rhinoceros beetle to illustrate that while creatures may be different, they also have similarities. The story begins with a double-page long shot showing a tiny rhinoceros contemplating the enormous moon. “There are moments when the world feels small,” says the text, and the page turn shows another double-page spread of a foregrounded rhinoceros beetle facing the sun, which looks small by comparison: “And other times when it feels huge.” This observation, while not startling, could be the springboard for an original storyline. Alas, it is not. “Sometimes we sink,” is followed by the clichéd “But sometimes we can soar.” When the rhinoceros and the beetle meet, “We’ll understand that we are unique.” How they will understand this when the illustration shows the beetle on the rhino’s tail looking at the rhino’s rear end is not immediately clear. Serra’s illustrations combine sharp-edged collaged shapes for the beetle and flora with a scribbly drawing style for the rhinoceros, and these two very different techniques don’t meld well visually. The theme that creatures can be different but also similar tries but doesn’t extend beyond the obvious, and the reach for the universal in similarity in the final line—that we all share the same planet—lacks impact.

A worthy idea presented without flair. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5527-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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