An original and thought-provoking exploration of the rhythms of friendship.

A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD

It is common to associate cages with imprisonment, but what of the cage’s point of view?

The book’s title is an aphorism attributed to Franz Kafka; it clearly stimulated a flight of fancy in Fagan. He banishes his subject to an attic corner where it feels “useless and unwanted.” Despite admonishments from the suitcase and guitar, the cage maneuvers itself to the window and jumps. Decorated with heart-shaped scrollwork, this wrought-iron home longs for an inhabitant. It strikes up conversations with all the birds that happen by, from a hummingbird to an owl, trying to persuade them of the merits of caged life. Blues and oranges dominate Erfanian’s vibrant illustrations. The flowers that grace the rolling hills and the texture applied to the wooded backgrounds create a cozy tapestry effect further enhanced by the soft edges produced by the acrylic and oil pastels. Each wild creature rejects the cage’s logic, and after a lonely night, there is a discernable difference in its approach to the frightened bird that lands nearby. The cage listens to the pet’s tale of abandonment without pressure, simply keeping it company. Ultimately, an invitation is extended: “Do not worry anymore. Hop inside where it is warm and safe. For I have come to save you. And you have come to save me.”

An original and thought-provoking exploration of the rhythms of friendship. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55498-861-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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