The use of invented dialogue makes this problematic as straight biography, but it is nevertheless a charming, delightful...

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BEATRIX POTTER AND THE UNFORTUNATE TALE OF A BORROWED GUINEA PIG

Beatrix Potter was an artist and writer whose tales of the small animals she loved have entertained generations of children; here, Hopkinson and Voake offer a story of her childhood.

Beatrix keeps a menagerie of unusual pets on the top floor of her London home. The rabbits are her favorites and can be seen hopping along on a leash when she goes out and about. Most of all, she loves drawing and painting the animals and keeping a journal of her adventures with them. Although she cares for all the creatures as best she can, there are, alas, a great many failures. Queen Elizabeth, a guinea pig borrowed as an artist’s model, when left unattended, eats several items not meant for consumption and comes to an unfortunate end. Beatrix tries to make amends by presenting a memorial painting of the departed pet to its owner. Drawing on her subject’s journals, Hopkinson addresses the “Dear Reader” directly and employs language in keeping with syntax and style found in Potter’s works. Voake’s softly drawn watercolors splash through the pages, exuberantly detailing all the events. Facsimile pages with black line sketches, ostensibly from Beatrix’s journal, tell the fates of some of her pets. The author also informs readers of Beatrix’s later fame, with the caveat that it would be wise to keep gifts from artists, “Because you just never know.” A postscript in a chatty and accessible tone provides much information and copious illustrative material.

The use of invented dialogue makes this problematic as straight biography, but it is nevertheless a charming, delightful homage. (author’s note, photographs, notes) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-37325-8

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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