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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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