Reassuring and clear, this is a heartfelt story about loss and discovering that one can love again.

THE ROUGH PATCH

Nature brings healing and a reawakening of the heart.

Evan, a farmer, is a red fox; his best friend and trusty companion is a black mutt. They do everything together, including work in Evan’s lush garden. Eventually the dog dies, and Evan is inconsolable. Progressing through the stages of grief, Evan mourns, then feels bitter anger and destroys the garden, hacking it to pieces (presumably not, as some readers may wonder, the corner where he buried his friend). Matching Evan’s mood, the formerly beautiful place is now weed-filled and forlorn. A creeping pumpkin vine gradually helps Evan to reassess his thinking. Deciding not to destroy the nascent plant, he cultivates it; his tender horticultural touch allows the pumpkin to develop into a gourd of enormous proportions. Bringing it to the fair, Evan wins third place—and oh, what a prize he chooses, revealed wordlessly on the book’s final page! This story is simply and subtly told with admirably genuine emotion, but the textured, strong-hued art is the real standout. Charming images, such as Evan’s gardening boots with holes for claws, and heart-wrenching ones—note Evan’s bending over the dog’s unmoving body—are to savor. Lies also matches colors and characters’ expressiveness to moods and provides white space around numerous vignettes to focus readers’ attention.

Reassuring and clear, this is a heartfelt story about loss and discovering that one can love again. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267127-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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