Dahlie (Henrietta, 1999) updates the classic Aesop fable with understated humor and delicately detailed watercolors. The reunion of the two very different cousins is sparked when Bernelly, a fly-fishing instructor who lives “west of the city in a small village that [has] everything a mouse could need—except a shoe shop,” discovers that her boot has “sprung a leak.” It’s the perfect excuse to visit Cousin Harriet in the city. A series of vignettes shows Bernelly, in knee-high black boots and jaunty red scarf, preparing for her journey. When she arrives at the station, Harriet, a famous artist dressed in periwinkle pumps and matching shawl, immediately sweeps her up: “ ‘Darling-Bernelly-so-good-to-see-you-I-have-missed-you-so,’ [she] said in all one breath.” This time, a series of vignettes shows the two traipsing all over town. By the time they find Bernelly’s boots, she’s exhausted. When Harriet asks if she now sees the superiority of city living, Bernelly snaps “No!” and invites Harriet to return to the country with her. “Perhaps it will inspire me,” says Harriet. But in scene after scene, Harriet appears hopeless. She tangles her line while fly-fishing, looks positively dismayed when Bernelly takes a nap under a tree, and appears bored to tears as the guests at Bernelly’s dinner party tell “tales of trout.” When Bernelly asks her what she thinks about life in the country, Harriet admits that it’s not quite her cup of tea. But she has found the inspiration she was seeking. The final illustration shows Harriet busily painting portraits of city landmarks. An endearing adaptation. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-60811-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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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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Aims high but falls flat.


Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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