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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DONUTS AND DANGER

From the Max Meow series , Vol. 2

Max and Mindy are back in action and must face old foes and nefarious new look-alikes.

Max Meow, feline resident of Kittyopolis, is secretly the superhero Cat Crusader, and he’s excited to no longer work solo. His BSFF (Best Science Friend Forever), brown-skinned human Mindy, has gained powers and created her own superhero persona, Science Kitty. Problem is, she puts so much pressure on herself to be perfect that she’s too scared to be a hero out in public. When havoc is wreaked at Food Fest, followed by a series of robberies, not only is the world of donut sales in peril, but the whole city is in danger. Old and new villains team up, and Cat Crusader will need Science Kitty’s skills—even if they are imperfect—in order to save the day and the donuts. This book tries to do a lot and isn’t always successful: An overabundance of plot points and characters makes it lack focus and overall cohesion. The more the story progresses, the messier and more jumbled it becomes, bogging down the pace. The lesson about the pitfalls of perfectionism does add some depth, and the brightly colored cartoon art plus the combination of silliness, science, and superpowers make this tale inviting. Fans of the first book may enjoy spending more time with these cool cats, but hopefully their next adventure will be smoother.

Overstuffed. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12108-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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