Not as “Ick”y as the spinach is in Eula’s estimation but far from Mouse’s opening observation of “Amazing!” (Picture book....

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SQUARE CAT ABC

An abecedary follow-up to Schoonmaker’s debut, Square Cat (2011).

The titular square cat, Eula, wearing a floppy green-and-yellow hat, is busy with shovel and seeds when a portly blue-and-pink mouse happens along. Quizzed about her actions, Eula discloses that she’s “Gardening” but that she doesn’t care for Mouse’s favorite, spinach. The sudden appearance of a porcupine (heralded by the words “Kerplunk” and “Kaboom” to fulfill the need for words beginning with K) startles the mouse but doesn’t faze the cat. Mouse’s fears are allayed by Eula’s calm explanation that the prickly animal is her friend and the discovery that the porcupine also likes spinach. Convinced to sample it, Eula still finds the leafy green stuff “Yucky” (“eXtremely” so, in fact), leading Mouse to suggest that she try a “Zucchini, perhaps?” Created in watercolor, gouache, watercolor pencils and ink, the pictures are pleasingly childlike and stand out well against the abundant white space. Unfortunately, they appear static and flat when paired with the staccato text. Letters are emphasized with red print, but varying between upper- and lowercase letters may create confusion, as will a few unusual flourishes in the typeface selected.

Not as “Ick”y as the spinach is in Eula’s estimation but far from Mouse’s opening observation of “Amazing!” (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9895-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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