BARNABY

A bird leaves home in a fit of pique.

Barnaby, a blue budgie, lives with a White lady who feeds him “sunflower seeds and pieces of sweet mango.” For a different bird, this might be a gilded-cage existence (literally): “His cage was gold and shaped like a gumdrop castle. He had a swing and a ring, a rope to chew, and bells that jingle-jangled.” But far from feeling confined, Barnaby genuinely loves the cozy home with patched-up furniture and the human whose neck he nuzzles during his free fly-around time. Everything’s copacetic until the lady dares to bring home a second bird. “Barnaby ignore[s] the little yellow puff,” throws tantrums, and storms out the open window into the wild blue yonder. His time in nature with a flock of strangers mellows his snobbery and sense of entitlement; when he returns, he mirrors a kindness for the yellow bird that an outdoor bird modeled for him. Curtis mentions no emotions, instead using poetic figures of speech: Doubt and isolation are “silence heavy on [Barnaby’s] wings”; when Barnaby finally accepts the new family member, the yellow bird’s feathers look “soft as summer wind.” Reich’s gouache paintings with colored pencil are honey-toned and golden except the scene of Barnaby’s furious departure, which is awash with uneasy green. The lady’s off-center mouth shows a wry and solid wisdom while a crucial berry is unforgettably red and specific.

Full of feeling. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-370-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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