Stunning illustrations and authentic words grace this unusually sophisticated picture book.



Following Nighttime Ninja (2012), Young and DaCosta collaborate once again, this time infusing the sense and spirit of Moby-Dick (with a twist) into a picture book.

As the book opens, a crew of whalemen longs to be homeward bound, their combined voices echoing sea chanteys (in fact all the words in the story but one are taken from Melville’s novel). But the chase for Moby Dick is on, extending page after dramatic page…until the plug is pulled—literally—and readers realize that the story is an imaginative child’s bathtub adventure. Each double-page spread (most in a typical horizontal orientation, others an unexpected vertical) brings readers a fresh dose of nuance and meaning created by Young’s expert design and composition. The endpapers, which at first appear to be a random mottled tan and white, on closer inspection reveal possibly a negative image of sailing ships, or is it a whale’s hide seen very close up? This illustrative complexity rewards readers who look deeply, engaging both their perceptions and emotions. Off-kilter lines indicate unease and tension. The red face of the peg-legged captain intent on revenge visually screams his anger. A harpoon’s shocking pink line, at first glance incongruous, has a slant and color that reverberates against the cobalt blue of the water, creating a thrum of action. It all works.

Stunning illustrations and authentic words grace this unusually sophisticated picture book. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-29936-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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


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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