An experience that is, and always will be, memorable.

IS WAS

This meditation on the fleeting nature of time explores themes of impermanence in nature.

The story opens with a glimpse of a sky “that was blue, / but now is // spilling down.” Readers then see rain falling, with the words is is is in a fluid blue display type mingling with the raindrops, followed by a spread with three puddles, each accompanied by a similar was, and a thirsty chipmunk and bird eager for a drink. Now that “rain that was drips / is for sips / and song.” As the story continues, the spare text flowing like poetry and the illustrations extending the lyrical musings in concrete ways, readers spend their time with creatures in nature—including a human family (presenting White) that appears at the end—and with a breathtaking instance of blithe, vividly colored sunflowers on display. In one particularly effective spread featuring a vast and sunny pale blue sky, a child swings, the arc of the movement shifting from is to was repeatedly. The tone briefly shifts from wondrous and meditative to exhilarating when a chipmunk manages to escape the talons of a hungry owl. (“A shadow is” but, fortunately for the chipmunk, becomes past tense.) The narrative, infused with a tenderness that avoids preciosity, is a contemplative, thought-provoking one and will prompt children to think about the here and the now—and how quickly such a thing becomes memory. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

An experience that is, and always will be, memorable. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7510-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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