Joosse’s (Alien Brain Fryout, 2000, etc.) sensitive tale of love, loss, and remembrance is set in a small Mexican town and intertwined with the lifecycle of monarch butterflies. A young girl and her grandmother have a special relationship: often, they walk through the woods to the Magic Circle, where the butterflies they love spend the winter. And grandmother is the only person who protects her from the monsters under the bed at night. One day, Grandmother “grew thin as smoke.” She was too tired to make tortillas and wanted to say goodbye to the butterflies that were ready to leave for the north. The butterflies left; Grandmother died; and the family grieved. Papa’s comforting words, “When you love someone they never leave,” are meaningless as the child struggles to hold on to her memories. It is only upon the return of the butterflies—who some believe carry the souls of the dead—that the girl can recapture her memories of Grandmother again. Joosse integrates the Mexican customs of honoring the dead during the holiday period known as the Days of the Dead into a narrative that deals with universal feelings about death. Potter’s (Kate and the Beanstalk, 2000, etc.) ink, watercolor, and colored-pencil illustrations suffused with pale, warm color complement and extend the text. The stylized drawings of people with oversized heads and expressive, round faces convey great emotion. Delicate butterflies flutter around the child and Grandmother, creating a mood of love and beauty. A beautiful book, suitable for group or individual sharing. It includes a discussion guide and information on the Days of the Dead and monarch butterflies. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8118-2164-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?


Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet