A well-meaning tale is overwhelmed by an over-the-top attempt at inspiration.

A SINGLE PEARL

A potentially charming tale about a perfect pearl that takes form from a simple grain of sand is laden with heavy-handed life lessons.

The grain becomes embedded in an oyster and is slowly coated with protective layers until a diver brings it up, discovers the beautiful pearl it has become and sets it on a journey that carries it home to a lovely young princess. The tale might have succeeded as a story of how the pearl became the imperial jewel of Persia, the nominal plot, but Napoli missteps by endowing the grain of sand with deep emotions of hopelessness and helplessness and, eventually, love and joy. The message that each person has the ability to change and grow is clearly intended to be uplifting and encouraging. However, all the changes to the grain of sand come about naturally: It does not make itself into a pearl; that outcome is accomplished by the oyster and time. Moreover, a pearl has no value beyond what humans place upon it. The princess loves the pearl, certainly with no thought to the grain of sand at its center. LaMarche’s lovely illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint and colored pencil in a palette of pink, purple and turquoise, with appropriately luminescent pearls, transcend the weaknesses of the text.

 A well-meaning tale is overwhelmed by an over-the-top attempt at inspiration. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4557-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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