If the text is occasionally sentimental or overwritten, the pictures are so simple they’re heartbreaking.

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IDA, ALWAYS

This is a picture book about loss and grief, so it is probably not a coincidence that it is pictorially dominated by skies.

Santoso paints amazing skies. There’s a spectacular view of the sky on almost every page of the story. When the sky isn’t visible, it’s usually reflected in a pool of water. They’re city skies, so the clouds are shaped like buses and taxis, but sometimes they look like bears chasing each other through the air. This is apt, as the main characters in the book are Gus and Ida, two polar bears living in the city zoo. Some days, Ida is too weak to swim or play, and sometimes she coughs or sleeps too long. The book is very blunt about what’s happening: “one day, when her body stopped working, Ida would die.” Levis writes about death and the bears’ mutual devotion with surprising beauty: “There were growling days and laughing days / and days that mixed them up.” But some of the most affecting passages are hardly poetic at all. Gus’ distress is emphasized in large, bold type: “ ‘Don’t go,’ he growled. ‘Don’t go, don’t go…DON’T!’ ” The final image shows Gus beneath a cloud shaped like a lone bear. The text says: “And Ida is right there. Always.”

If the text is occasionally sentimental or overwritten, the pictures are so simple they’re heartbreaking. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2640-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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