An elegant, exuberant portrayal of stylistic differences and child-writer passion.



Mouse wants to tell a simple, gentle story, but Frog bounces in and stirs it up.

With metafiction crowding picture-book shelves these days, each new piece needs to earn its place, and this one does. On the opening endpapers, Mouse stands on a ladder painting the page’s off-white, textured drawing paper a smooth, glossy white. “Once upon a time,” Mouse begins, sketching in pencil, “Mouse woke up early and set the table…”—“For F-r-r-o-o-g-g!” yells Frog in large type, leaping jubilantly onto the page from above. The conflict’s set: Mouse wants to tell—and draw—a calm, domestic story about tea, while Frog wants a king, a dragon and “elevendy-seven” flavors of ice cream. He bundles these elements and more into a breathless stream-of-consciousness plot with tumbling highlights from nursery rhymes, children’s literature (stinky cheese, chicken soup, a bus-driving request) and breakfast cereal (or perhaps Elvis: “frankooberry mush”). Mouse screams “STOP!” amid an explosion of narrative images. Freedman renders Mouse, Frog, bits from their stories and most of the ensuing mess in watercolor, gouache, pencil and pastel; the stories under construction are largely dark gray pencil. The conflict’s crescendo is a visual whirlwind, the penciled king and dragon crashing and splashing down into watery paint alongside Frog and Mouse. Luckily, Frog finds the pencil’s eraser, and the pals find a sunny compromise.

An elegant, exuberant portrayal of stylistic differences and child-writer passion. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-78490-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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 buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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