With a deft minimalism recalling Charles Schultz or Mo Willems, Browne creates a character to care about, whether excavating...

MARLO

A pit bull transforms a simple bath into an underwater epic in Browne’s picture-book debut.

Marlo’s early appearances are rear views as he runs off the page, then digs up the garden. Finally he rests, a red flower comically planted on his head while he gazes quizzically at readers. Brief sentences and pen-and-watercolor images on generous white backgrounds create a seemingly tidy narrative as the bath begins—a contrast with Marlo’s imagined aquatic adventures. Ensconced in a claw-foot tub, rubber duck at his side, the dog catches a wave into colorful, full-bleed compositions depicting exotic plant life and sea creatures. Words disappear. When the duck is catapulted into the deep, his owner dons scuba gear. Children will enjoy the challenging hide-and-seek game that follows in the swirls of pattern and movement. The tension generated as Marlo is pursued by a shark and swallowed by a whale is relieved in the mammal’s belly when good-hearted penguins, partying in an underwater galleon, rescue Marlo and introduce him to their admiral, who has protected the beloved object. As with all good fantasies, the homecoming reveals clues that connect to the journey. This one also leads to laughter.

With a deft minimalism recalling Charles Schultz or Mo Willems, Browne creates a character to care about, whether excavating at home or when plunged into the pleasures and perils of the wider world. Dripping with delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244113-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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A hilarious autumnal comedy of errors.

THE LEAF THIEF

A confused squirrel overreacts to the falling autumn leaves.

Relaxing on a tree branch, Squirrel admires the red, gold, and orange leaves. Suddenly Squirrel screams, “One of my leaves is…MISSING!” Searching for the leaf, Squirrel tells Bird, “Someone stole my leaf!” Spying Mouse sailing in a leaf boat, Squirrel asks if Mouse stole the leaf. Mouse calmly replies in the negative. Bird reminds Squirrel it’s “perfectly normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year.” Next morning Squirrel panics again, shrieking, “MORE LEAVES HAVE BEEN STOLEN!” Noticing Woodpecker arranging colorful leaves, Squirrel queries, “Are those my leaves?” Woodpecker tells Squirrel, “No.” Again, Bird assures Squirrel that no one’s taking the leaves and that the same thing happened last year, then encourages Squirrel to relax. Too wired to relax despite some yoga and a bath, the next day Squirrel cries “DISASTER” at the sight of bare branches. Frantic now, Squirrel becomes suspicious upon discovering Bird decorating with multicolored leaves. Is Bird the culprit? In response, Bird shows Squirrel the real Leaf Thief: the wind. Squirrel’s wildly dramatic, misguided, and hyperpossessive reaction to a routine seasonal event becomes a rib-tickling farce through clever use of varying type sizes and weights emphasizing his absurd verbal pronouncements as well as exaggerated, comic facial expressions and body language. Bold colors, arresting perspectives, and intense close-ups enhance Squirrel’s histrionics. Endnotes explain the science behind the phenomenon.

A hilarious autumnal comedy of errors. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-3520-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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