A well-intended, unusual, but not entirely successful story bringing sea creatures into focus.



A lost Siamese cat learns about life on an ocean beach and in a tide pool.

Catastrophe the cat has wandered too far from home, ending up alone on a beach. He is befriended by several sea creatures who speak kindly to him. These characters include a sea anemone named Naimonee and a barnacle named Buddy. Dancing crabs and sand dollars join Buddy and pals in a “barnacle band” as they click their shells like castanets. Catastrophe survives being sucked into the tide pool by the undertow, and he is eventually rescued by two brown-skinned children who recognize him from lost-cat posters they have seen in the area. Caldecott Medalist Young’s collage illustrations are intriguing but mysterious, as it is sometimes difficult to identify characters, and the text often feels out of sync with the illustrations. Buddy the barnacle in particular is problematic, as he is a main character but is seldom shown and difficult to spot. Many of the torn-paper collage illustrations of the cat are compelling, and the variety of textures and effects achieved with the combination of different papers is fascinating when perused closely. As explained in an afterword, the fanciful story was developed in partnership with the Seattle Aquarium as an effort to increase empathy for sea life.

A well-intended, unusual, but not entirely successful story bringing sea creatures into focus. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5132-6234-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: West Margin Press

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Lit with sweetness.


Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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