Bare trees, a white background to the images, and the muted colors suggest this takes place in winter; companionship in the...



This gentle story about friendship, devotion, and commitment features an unlikely pair: an elderly man and an inanimate (or is it?), inarticulate inflatable polar bear that adorns the rooftop of the factory where the man works.

Every day, white, gray-haired Iver takes his lunch on the roof, where he sits with this bear, dubbed Ellsworth. Iver takes it upon himself to care for Ellsworth, clearing away dead leaves, snow, or rain streaks, depending on the season, and making sure his ropes are fastened. One day, Iver is very slow going about his business, and he tells Ellsworth he is about to retire. The following spread is an exemplar of restraint with few words (“ ‘I’m going to miss you,’ he says”); this is succeeded by a few spreads with no words, showing only in pictures the characters’ stories in parallel: Iver eating alone in a diner and going to the movies by himself; Ellsworth loosed from his rooftop ropes, blowing across the city. The happy ending resolves neatly when Ellsworth lands—where else?—on the roof of Iver’s home. Larson’s pencil-and-watercolor illustrations fit the tone, portraying a riverside industrial city with rolling hills beyond in suitably subtle grays, browns, and greens.

Bare trees, a white background to the images, and the muted colors suggest this takes place in winter; companionship in the winter of life is a cozy theme, portrayed comfortingly here. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-999-0249-1-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Ripple Grove

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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