Young is at the height of his powers in this fable that offers a feast for the eyes, mind, and soul. A visual masterpiece.

THE CAT FROM HUNGER MOUNTAIN

A wealthy lord has everything, yet it’s never enough until deprivation teaches him life’s true riches.

Lying in luxury atop Hunger Mountain, a haughty cat lord lives in excess. His clothes are spun from silk and gold, and he always leaves his bowl of the finest rice half eaten. But a drought begins, and famine spreads. The villagers leave; still the arrogant feline stays, refusing to part with his possessions. Finally, starving and alone, the lord ventures out and must beg for food. When a kindly monk gives him a spoonful of rice—the grains of which were collected from the cat’s wasted extravagance at Hunger Mountain—the lord finally understands what it means to be blessed. The well-paced fable is visually stunning, as photographs, textured paper, string, and other materials combine into magnificent paper collage illustrations. At times abstract but always beautifully composed, the artwork shows a deep appreciation for its audience, boldly challenging readers to interpret and extract meaning. During the cat’s epiphany, the mountain and mist resolve into a symbolic panda servant dutifully washing the rich lord’s rice. In a time when almost all illustrators use digital manipulation, this artist only needs paper and scissors to assemble a brilliant image.

Young is at the height of his powers in this fable that offers a feast for the eyes, mind, and soul. A visual masterpiece. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17278-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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