Moving and evocative visual storytelling.

AQUARIUM

A little girl tries to construct an aquarium for her new fish in this wordless Portuguese import by an Argentine artist.

Following a path from her house to a riverside dock, the girl stares intently into the water and imagines swimming amid fish of varying shapes, sizes, and colors. When a sprightly red fish leaps onto the dock, she captures it and carries it home, where she attempts to assemble an aquarium. Surrounded by assorted containers, hoses, and puddles, the girl dons her bathing suit, hoping to replicate the experience of swimming with her fish. When her fish flips out of the inflatable pool into a puddle, the girl realizes her venture isn’t working. Reluctantly, she returns the wee red fish to the river. In this wordless story, illustrations convey setting, character, plot, and emotion through flat patterns, simple lines, and a contained palette of pinks, blues, and golds, rendered in pencil and pen and digitally. Deep tones and bold patterns for river scenes achieve a lush, decorative quality reflecting the girl’s oneness with nature, while paler tones and bland furnishings create a sterile interior space, mirroring her inability to replicate nature. Close-ups of the girl’s face convey joy, excitement, wonder, dismay, and eventual acceptance. Her fish-shaped barrette and fish-patterned dress and bathing suit cleverly echo the very visible red fish. She is depicted with light ocher skin and purple hair.

Moving and evocative visual storytelling. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6875-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

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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