A fresh inversion of expectations told in vivid art and idiom.

WE BECAME JAGUARS

Left alone together, a small child and their grandmother transform into jaguars, walking on all fours on the carpet and then out into the night.

The grandmother, with her “very, very long” white hair, dark brows, crimson nails, and spotted cardigan, appears game for anything wild. The child has met her only once, and her bold demeanor will intrigue children used to benign literary grandmothers who dole out cookies and cuddles. This grandmother directs the child to look “leaner” and “fiercer” as they make the shape of a jaguar on the floor alongside her. “Now we go,” she states flatly. A clever gatefold shows the pair’s metamorphosis from white-skinned humans to furry felines stalking through night grasses. Transfixing painterly illustrations offer nocturnal purples and blues along with bioluminescent pinks and greens, creating a woozy, otherworldly habitat. The little jaguar seems a bit scared at first, tremulous, turning down raw rabbit by claiming an allergy. Young people will find humor in the child’s narration, perhaps especially when they relate that “we were somewhere in the Himalayas when I remembered that I had school.” The phrase “we jaguared on” repeats again and again as they cross varying landscapes, and it perfectly captures the fluidity of jaguar movement in its languid articulation. Children will relish this book’s blurred ambiguities; what’s real and what’s imagined are as hard to distinguish as a jaguar in the shadows.

A fresh inversion of expectations told in vivid art and idiom. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4521-8393-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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