A gorgeous reminder that the natural world is perfect and worthy of notice.

READ REVIEW

THE PERFECT TREE

In a natural-world version of Leo Tolstoy’s short story “The Three Questions,” a boy goes in search of the perfect tree to chop for firewood and finds much more.

Jack sets out in the early morning with his ax. But each tree is too wide or spooky or silly or even familiar. Just when he begins to lose heart, a woodpecker invites him to see its perfect tree—one filled with its bird friends. A squirrel’s perfect tree is an oak filled with acorns and berries for winter, and a spider’s is festooned with a bejeweled web. During the storm that suddenly strikes, Jack’s perfect tree is a sheltering willow, and he comes to the realization that “Every tree in the forest is perfect.” Leaving his ax behind, he heads home, the next day searching for the perfect tree “to climb…to draw…to love.” While Bonfield’s text is adequate, her artwork shines as something distinctive among picture books. A combination of three-dimensional pieces, digital and collaged elements, and found textures, the illustrations are a moody, atmospheric mix of shadows and light. Many times Jack and the animals are seen in black profile against a natural backdrop, perspectives changing to show close-ups and others putting Jack and the animals in correct proportion to the forest around them.

A gorgeous reminder that the natural world is perfect and worthy of notice. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5586-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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