With an open-ended, wordless conclusion inviting predictions and possibilities, this tightly paced narrative soars above its...

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I HAVE A BALLOON

Bernstein’s debut featuring an owl holding a balloon begins with a spoiler alert on the jacket flap: “This is NOT a book about sharing.”

It is, however, an honest, humorous depiction of how one might cling to or covet possessions—behaviors that both children and adults will recognize. The story starts simply. Sitting on a branch in the woods, Owl proclaims the titular sentence to a nearby monkey. As the primate offers observations, the owl incorporates the adjectives into longer declarations: “That is a shiny red balloon,” says the monkey. “I have a shiny red balloon,” Owl agrees. Desperate to have the object, Monkey zooms through the pages offering trades, but neither the teddy bear, sunflower, robot, ball, etc., do the trick. Magoon’s digital caricatures provide the emotional content that will elicit identification and laughter. His funky monkey and staid owl are entertaining foils, and the would-be trader’s pratfalls recall Warner Bros. cartoons. It is ultimately a star-studded sock with a hole in it that gives Owl pause. Here there is more text as each character imagines wearing the sock on different body parts and using it for puppet performances. Then it is Owl who turns on the charm to no avail. They are each left with the metaphorical shoe on the other foot, until a raccoon wielding an ice cream cone appears.

With an open-ended, wordless conclusion inviting predictions and possibilities, this tightly paced narrative soars above its message-driven counterparts. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7250-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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