An avian revision of a classic rhyme that soars.

THIS IS THE NEST THAT ROBIN BUILT

A mother robin builds a nest with a little help from nearby creatures.

It starts with the squirrel, “who trimmed the twigs, not too big, / that anchor the nest that Robin built.” Then the dog brings string, the horse shares straw, the pig mixes mud, and so on. It’s a riff on the classic rhyme “This Is the House That Jack Built,” but Fleming keeps the text fresh with additional rhyming adjectives. Whether “not too big,” “long and strong,” or “soft not soupy,” each new item Robin receives has its own specifications. Thus, the cumulative story expertly reinforces narrative comprehension while also building vocabulary. Fleming combines her signature printmaking techniques with collage to make beautifully textured illustrations filled with natural tones and repeated patterns. The creatures are mostly to scale, some fitting within the book and some extending beyond its pages. Though the animals change with each page turn, readers will enjoy spotting the tiny ladybugs hidden in each illustration. The narrow portrait trim size expands with a final gatefold that flips the structure of the verse to conclude with the new, “rumpled and ruffled” fledglings flying away—a satisfying conclusion.

An avian revision of a classic rhyme that soars. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3083-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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