ALBERT

A young recluse makes an unusual connection to the outside world in Napoli's (Beast, 2000, etc.) first picture book. Albert lives in his apartment, protected from the world by the bars on his window. Every day he listens to the sounds outside—to laughter and other good noises and to arguing and other bad noises—and sticks his hand out the window, but every day he draws it back and stays inside. One day while his arm is outstretched, two cardinals build a nest in it, forcing the good-hearted Albert to remain with his hand out the window for weeks as they raise their family. He sleeps standing up and, by peeping insistently, gets the cardinals to bring him food (blackberries and beetles, which he eventually comes to enjoy). Through the unwitting intervention of the cardinals, he learns that the world, despite its bad noises, holds wondrous possibilities. LaMarche's (The Raft, 2000, etc.) colored-pencil illustrations portray Albert as something of an aesthete, with a high forehead and little intellectual spectacles, and views vary from close-up images of Albert's quizzical face to long views of the apartment building with Albert's small hand protruding from the bars. It is an unabashedly unlikely story, whose message is somewhat unsubtly hammered home when it is left to Albert to convince a reluctant fledgling to leave the nest. The deadpan prose and warmly humorous illustrations combine to keep the reader's disbelief suspended (just barely), crafting a sweetly reassuring book about taking chances. This fits nicely with Tohby Riddle's The Singing Hat (p. 187). (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-201572-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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