Alarming, timely, gorgeous, and open-ended, allowing readers the time to think for themselves.


How tidy can a forest become and remain a forest?

Pete, a badger, is intense and intent on neatening his forest—no holds barred. “He tidied the flowers by checking each patch, / and snipping off any that didn’t quite match.” He grooms a dubious fox (using, hilariously, a hedgehog as a brush); he sweeps, scours, and vacuums; he brushes birds’ beaks with toothbrushes. When autumn leaves swirl down, he bags them and stands atop the mountain of newly filled black plastic trash bags. A quick uprooting of every tree and a flood drop readers suddenly into a new visual world. Gone is the friendly vibe; gone are autumnal oranges and greens; gone is any background white space. In gray rain and murky brown mud, Pete’s sharp black-and-white face and his red mop and bucket stand out, alien in the watery landscape. Still, Pete won’t yield to nature. While excessive tidying isn’t exactly industrialization or climate change, Pete’s result—a concrete wasteland—invokes both. The rhyming verse regularly changes structure, reflecting the uncertainty of this environment. Artistic virtuoso Gravett wields her pencils, watercolors, and wax crayons (and a nifty, layered cover die cut) to create detail that’s tender and sharp, with backgrounds both lush and quirky. This is an exploration of innocence, loss, the surrender of control, and—thankfully—the option of changing direction before it’s too late.

Alarming, timely, gorgeous, and open-ended, allowing readers the time to think for themselves. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8019-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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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Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the...


Rhymed couplets convey the story of a girl who likes to build things but is shy about it. Neither the poetry nor Rosie’s projects always work well.

Rosie picks up trash and oddments where she finds them, stashing them in her attic room to work on at night. Once, she made a hat for her favorite zookeeper uncle to keep pythons away, and he laughed so hard that she never made anything publicly again. But when her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and reminds Rosie of her own past building airplanes, she expresses her regret that she still has not had the chance to fly. Great-great-aunt Rose is visibly modeled on Rosie the Riveter, the iconic, red-bandanna–wearing poster woman from World War II. Rosie decides to build a flying machine and does so (it’s a heli-o-cheese-copter), but it fails. She’s just about to swear off making stuff forever when Aunt Rose congratulates her on her failure; now she can go on to try again. Rosie wears her hair swooped over one eye (just like great-great-aunt Rose), and other figures have exaggerated hairdos, tiny feet and elongated or greatly rounded bodies. The detritus of Rosie’s collections is fascinating, from broken dolls and stuffed animals to nails, tools, pencils, old lamps and possibly an erector set. And cheddar-cheese spray.

Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the right place. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0845-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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