Tender, comforting, and complex.

READ REVIEW

THIS HOUSE, ONCE

Softly, poetically, an unseen narrator explores a house and what it is made of.

A small wooden door with a red doorknob sits in the middle of white space. “This door was once a colossal oak tree / about three hugs around / and as high as the blue.” Next, on a full-bleed double-page spread, the door appears as part of its original oak, which sits in purple grasses, reaching through clouds to the sky. Bricks—made from mud—appear around the door, and the next spread takes readers to a large, tempting mud puddle, a turtle happily a-wallow, a frog at play, a kitten dipping paws in. “This roof was once rock, / carved and cleft // and shingled to shelter // from gray wet”—a humble, elegant sheet of slates hovers above the in-process house (which still sits in white space), and on the following spread, downy mists of pale indigo-pink highlight the small turtle, frog, kitten, and bird outdoors in the “gray wet.” Using pencil (both gray and colored), watercolor, and pastel—all with a supreme delicacy—Freedman builds this house until, behind swirls and flurries of an opaque snowstorm, a light-skinned child inside the house welcomes the kitten in. The arc emphasizes shelter but also human use of nature, so the feelings of warmth, safety, and coziness hold the faintest tinge of melancholy and loss.

Tender, comforting, and complex. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4284-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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