This marvelous metabook shines in both concept and beauty.


Right from the title page, Freedman’s latest makes a splash.

Atop a black-and-white stack of closed books sits one open book with blue pages fluttering like waves. A yellow fishtail disappears into the page, splashing water into the air above the books. This book happens to be a watery world (fish tank?) where, every day, Snail waits for Fish “to come home with a story.” Fish offers one with “a whole ocean, and a secret treasure, and a pirate ship”—but rather than telling it, “I want to show you this time, Snail!” Nope—Snail won’t go. They fight; Fish departs. Highlighted against the closed books and unobtrusive, black-and-white bookshelves in the background, Fish and Snail’s watercolor world looks clear and fine. But with Fish gone, “[h]ow can this be The Story of Fish & Snail?” Snail peers downward over the edge of the towering pile of books, where Fish has disappeared with a quiet “plimp.” Fish’s body, far below, appears murkily underwater inside the daunting new book. “F-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-S-H!” cries Snail, launching bravely into the air. Water splashes the whole height of the pile as Snail plunges into the new book. Fish peeps around a page’s corner, ready for reconciliation and adventure. Texture, scale and angle accentuate the exciting difference between the in-book worlds and the pale library background.

This marvelous metabook shines in both concept and beauty. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-78489-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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