With its distinctive look, a great drawing element that's actually appropriate to the story and a moral that values...

DRAGON BRUSH

The story of a magical dragon brush that can bring painted objects to life casts its own spell.

Bing-Wen, a slender rabbit from a poor family, loves to paint. His luck turns when he helps an old woman with an overturned cart and is awarded a paintbrush made from the whiskers of a dragon. Bing-Wen finds that everything he paints comes to life, even if the transformations don't always turn out the way he plans. When he tries to help his village by painting sources of food, the emperor is not pleased and arrests the boy. What follows is a clever reversal, in which Bing-Wen gives the emperor what he wants but in a way that saves Bing-Wen and his village. Characters are rendered in subtle, evocative colors and with appropriate, often funny detail. Artwork throughout is subtle and elegant, with Chinese-inspired touches like menu buttons in the shape of paper lanterns. But the app's greatest strength is the way it allows children to "fill in" Bing-Wen's paintings then watch them come to life. The text throughout is as clear and plainspoken as the narration, with good, punchy vocabulary. A separate painting feature is equally well-produced.

With its distinctive look, a great drawing element that's actually appropriate to the story and a moral that values cleverness over power, Bing-Wen's app is as rare and magical as the dragons he loves to paint. (iPad storybook app. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 23, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Small Planet Digital

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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