This extraordinary picture book, first published in France as Une chanson d’ours (2011), is as happy a surprise as finding a...

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THE BEAR'S SONG

Hibernation is for grown-ups—Little Bear has adventure on his mind.

In mad pursuit of a bee, Little Bear races through the forest, farther and farther away from his snoozing, cave-bound father: “Little Bear is too caught up in honey thoughts to hear winter’s whisper. A busy sort of buzzing beckons him instead.” Eagle-eyed readers can track the bear and bee all the way to Paris from the French countryside, devouring the hundreds of fanciful details that populate each gorgeous, oversized, double-page spread. When Papa Bear wakes up and sees his errant cub is missing, he too dashes off, eventually ending up at the Opéra Garnier and—oo la la!—even finding his voice onstage: “Grooooaaaarrrr!” Minidramas unfold by the square inch on delicious curry-, paprika- and olive-colored pages—cloaked and shifty-eyed lurkers, a mysterious lady with a poodle, a monkey-hatted child. Even in the Opéra’s exquisitely rendered architectural flourishes lurk images of forest beasts, and the honeycomb endpapers aptly flank the busy visual hive within. The playful, poetic text—brilliantly translated from the original French—hums along as nature and culture stylishly collide: “Now where could that bee and that Little Bear be?”

This extraordinary picture book, first published in France as Une chanson d’ours (2011), is as happy a surprise as finding a honey-filled hive at the end of a fur-raising journey. (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1424-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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