A gentle celebration of sameness and change.

A STONE SAT STILL

As with Wenzel’s Caldecott Honor–winning They All Saw a Cat (2016), this picture book plays with perspective to examine characteristics of one object—a stone—as it is experienced by a multitude of creatures.

When a sea gull perches atop the stone to crack open a clam, it is “loud.” When a snake curls upon it to rest in the sun, it is “quiet.” But no matter what, the stone “was as it was / where it was in the world.” Wenzel’s mixed-media illustrations use a muted color palette well suited to this presentation of the natural world. Readers experience the stone’s sensory qualities through the text and its relationship with slightly anthropomorphized animals. In the dark, the stone is “a feel,” as curious-looking raccoons know it through their paws, while it’s “a smell,” lit up in vibrant colors, to a hunting coyote, who sniffs the scents of the creatures who have previously passed. The book’s only misstep is the addition of three unnecessary spreads at the end that directly ask readers if they’ve “ever known such a place?” Coming as they do after text that reads, “and the stone was always,” these spreads cannot help but feel anticlimactic.

A gentle celebration of sameness and change. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7318-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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