Encourages children to feel brave, to try, and to believe they can soar.

MEL FELL

Mel knows it’s her day to fly.

A stout kingfisher fledgling marches to the end of her branch, jumps, flips, spreads her wings—and falls. Down she goes, beak-first, eyes shut, smiling broadly. This lovely book’s vertical format prompts readers to look longitudinally at each spread, up and down the trunk of a tall tree, following Mel’s descent. The unusual orientation, coupled with the gripping idea of first flight (or fall!), inspires both excitement and anxiety. Muted pastel illustrations set against ample, bleached-out white space convey craggy bark, Mel’s soft blue and russet feathers, and clusters of oval celadon leaves. Mel plummets, and animals (squirrels, bees, ants—even a spider and a realllllly slow-moving snail) scramble to help, adding humor. She crashes (into water!), and readers hold their breath, turning the book to follow her new trajectory. When Mel turns and shoots out of the water holding a fish in her beak, past her animal friends on the tree trunk, they will cheer. A note on kingfishers appears in the backmatter above a delightful picture of Mel nudging one of her siblings toward the end of the branch. Young people, who find themselves on the precipice of new activities, routines, schools, and challenges so frequently, will savor this little kingfisher’s success and perhaps feel they can right themselves the next time they fall into a downward spiral.

Encourages children to feel brave, to try, and to believe they can soar. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-287801-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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