A quirky addition to the afraid-of-the-dark shelf.


Baby animals learn to overcome their nighttime fears.

Whenever night falls in the Black Mushroom Forest, all the baby animals cry out and cower in fear. One day, an elephant arrives at the forest. Awu “[isn’t] a typical elephant” or, indeed, a typical forest creature. Unlike the other animals, Awu looks forward to the nighttime, when he can “open his mouth big and wide and swallow the dark nights.” Seeking a way to allay the children’s fears, Bear Cub’s mother enlists Awu’s help. One by one, Awu visits the children of the forest and eats away the dark. Sun shining, “they danced and cheered”—but quickly realize the trouble when it is “always bright as day.” With yawns and exhaustion comes an appreciation for balance and an understanding of the promise of a new day. Bold typographic design sets dialogue and onomatopoeic words apart on the page from the main narrative. Occasionally, the text design mimics the text—a sentence curls in on itself just like “Baby Porcupine [who] would cling to his mother’s side and shrink into a little ball.” Recurring swirls and curves visually draw readers’ eyes, and details such as constellationlike diagrams peppered throughout Li’s artwork add to the whimsy of Bai’s bedtime story.

A quirky addition to the afraid-of-the-dark shelf. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6850-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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Hee haw.

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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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