THE CROWS OF PEARBLOSSOM

Huxley’s story, his only children’s book and not meant for widespread publication, starts good and grim—just the thing to hold a young audience. Mrs. Crow’s eggs are mysteriously disappearing: 297 eggs a year, “a fresh egg every single day—except Sundays, of course, and public holidays.” The culprit is a rattlesnake that lives in a hole under her tree. “I’m having breakfast,” he explains with sinister meaning when she finally catches him in the act. Mrs. Crow suggests to Mr. Crow that he go down the hole and kill the snake. Mr. Crow demurs: “Your ideas are seldom good” (yes, touches of rudeness are sprinkled throughout). He consults the wise owl, who concocts a shrewd plan—without Mr. Crow’s input; “keep your beak shut and do exactly what I do,” spoken in a high tone—to fashion clay decoy eggs. The snake eats them, dies (after a lecture from Mrs. Crow) and is subsequently used as a clothesline for diapers. Though the book is handsomely designed, Blackall’s artwork, accomplished as it is, isn’t a snug fit. She captures the menace of the snake, but the crows are a different matter, with their dead, sharklike eyes, silly clothes and strange wings resembling spruce bows. Hair curlers hardly embody the shrew in Mrs. Crow, and Mr. Crow’s martini is just trivial. The story, however, is a powerful hymn to smarts, with unrepentant scorn for the greedy and the witless. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8109-9730-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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Hee haw.

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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