This there-and-back-again tale is surely worth the ride.

READ REVIEW

HAMISH TAKES THE TRAIN

Absence makes the heart grow fonder in this affectionate story of two best friends.

Hamish, an affable brown bear, and his friend Noreen, a white goose, live together in a cozy country cottage and love to watch the trains go by. Eager to ride a train and see the city, Hamish sets out while Noreen is content to stay home. When Hamish meets Christov, a human construction worker too sick to work the crane, Hamish enthusiastically offers to do so. He also learns to navigate the city and makes friends, but all the while he misses Noreen. When Christov tells Hamish, “I miss somebody, too…but he’s thousands of miles away,” Hamish returns to his friend, though he tells Noreen that he will continue to work in the city during the week. Hamish, who takes the furry, ursine version of a hero’s journey, is an endearing character; he has a friendly, curious nature, and his reunion with Noreen is a triumphant, warmhearted one. The illustrations effectively juxtapose Hamish’s pastoral cottage life, warm greens taking center stage, with the busy, bustling city in which the greens make way for a darker blue-gray and brick reds. Most of the townspeople present white, but Christov and a few others are slightly darker-skinned. The circumstances that separate Christov from his loved one go unexplored but open up possibilities for conversation.

This there-and-back-again tale is surely worth the ride. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1659-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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