A delicate, whimsical story that succeeds completely in its illustrations and design and a little less so in its text.



A fanciful picture book about the value of friendship.

“Mr. Brown had no friends and he didn’t want any.” So begins the tale of a reclusive bear who finds that his hat becomes a home to myriad birds. As time passes, he grows fond of their company. Imai’s transcendent illustrations evoke an otherworldly mood with their portrayal of everyday objects and scenes with unusual juxtapositions—a bird nestles in a teacup; a tiny tree grows out of the dining table. The illustrations’ dreamlike atmosphere is enhanced by the soft, precise technique the illustrator employs. With such perfectly rendered images, readers expect the text to ring with the same soft precision, but there is a bit too much telling of that which is already shown visually, which dilutes the effect. The book’s impeccable design pays close attention to detail, from its vertical layout (to accentuate the tall hat the birds live in) and clever endpapers to the placement of the illustrations and text. The text is on the verso only and is accompanied by a small spot illustration, while a full-page illustration is on the recto. This intentional use of white space on each spread enhances the story’s restful, dreamy atmosphere.

A delicate, whimsical story that succeeds completely in its illustrations and design and a little less so in its text. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-988-8240-84-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Minedition

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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.


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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