THE POET OF PINEY WOODS

A wolf wordsmith subverts expectations.

In a colorful, wood-block–printed forest, a wolf sneaks up behind an assortment of animals. A baseball-capped bear cub flees at the sound of a twig snapping. As a bow-tied frog sits on a log, “Wolf smiles. Teeth flash. / Frog sees Wolf. Splash!” But despite appearances, this doesn’t turn out to be a story of the food chain. Because now it’s “Sundown. Wolf’s lair. / Dinner? Sliced pears. / Peaceful. Poem time. / Wolf thinks, inks rhymes.” In tight, clipped, creatively rhymed and metered lines, this poem of a story shows that Wolf, a smoking jacket–clad vegetarian, just wants to share his verse with his forestmates. He pins his words to a tree, each a brief collection of rhyming words about the animal friends he was sneaking up on in the first part of the story. The animals gather around in appreciation, wondering who the mystery poet is, but when the wolf reveals himself as the author, the animals flee. A helpful blue jay convinces them to come back after Wolf pleads for understanding. Predictable for adults but no doubt suspenseful for children, the plot is enhanced by texturally rich illustrations and satisfying-to-read rhymes, making this an ideal read-aloud for inquisitive, word-loving young children. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at 18% of actual size.)

Quietly well done. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951836-09-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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