An intriguing, but uneven project in art education that delivers animal illustrations and rhymes.

If Picasso Went To The Zoo


From the If Picasso series

In this children’s book, 50 teachers create works emulating their favorite artists, with a twist.

In this follow-up to If Picasso Had a Christmas Tree (2014), Gibbons has again asked art teachers (elementary level to high school) to contribute works that introduce artists to child readers through pastiche. This time, each image includes an animal whose name is alliterative with the artist’s: Picasso and polar bear, Harriet Powers and pelican, Alice Baber and bison. As that short lists shows, the artists chosen stray far beyond the usual suspects. Genres range from Renaissance to contemporary styles, with interesting results for the less representational works, such as a minimalist tarantula consisting of eight rectangular pillars striped with color. Other contributors solve this problem by including a realistic element among an abstract rendering: Jackson Pollock’s entry, for example, includes a recognizable pig among the drips and splashes. In addition, a key provides information on each animal’s endangerment status, and inter-curricular lesson extensions are available online. Gibbons, an artist and educator, writes a 10-line rhymed introduction for each work. The poem aims to give a sense of the artist’s style, each beginning “If [name] went to the zoo, / is this the kind of illustration she [or he] would do?” The rest of the verse gives some information about the artist and/or subject as well as the animal being depicted. Unfortunately, Gibbons’ lines are often padded with unnecessary words or meaningless phrases (for example, “it just feels so right”), making them less effective. Also, young readers are unlikely to catch allusions like “for more than 15, this man [Warhol] was a star.” The other difficulty with the author’s format is that his intended audience probably doesn’t know the originals, making the pastiche less effective. Wouldn’t the best way to introduce and honor artists be through their own pieces? And illustrators children might know, such as Beatrix Potter or Arthur Rackham, already include many animals in their works, making their possible zoo-inspired pictures not much of a leap. In others, like a charming Lichtenstein-inspired leopard, the zoo/artist concept succeeds.

 An intriguing, but uneven project in art education that delivers animal illustrations and rhymes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940290-42-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Firehouse Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2015

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An unabashed love letter from mother.


From the Little Pookie series

A sweet celebration of the bond between a mother and her Pookie.

The eighth installment in this always charming series eschews the episodic drama and silliness of earlier outing such as Spooky Pookie (2015) in favor of a mom’s-eye-view celebration of her child and the time they spend together. There is, of course, nothing wrong with drama and silliness. But while the lack of conflict and plot in favor of unapologetic sentiment makes this book a quick read, that doesn’t make it any less endearing. The rhymed verse captures a mother’s wonder as she observes the many facets of her child’s personality: “Ah, Pookie. My little one. My funny one. My child. // Sometimes you are quiet. Sometimes you are wild.” On the simple joys of shared moments, she notes, “I love to go walking with you by my side. / I love when we sing when we go for a ride. // And I love just to watch as you think and you play. / The way that you are is a wonderful way.” Paired with author/illustrator Boynton’s irresistible renderings of a porcine mommy and her playful, snuggly little piglet, the result is impossible to fault. Whether quietly reading, running in a tiger suit, singing with mom in the car, ears flapping in the breeze, or enjoying the safety of mom’s embrace, Pookie’s appeal continues unabated.

An unabashed love letter from mother. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3723-4

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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The greeting-card art and jokey rhymes work for the baby-shower market but not for the youngest readers.


Animal parents declare their love for their offspring through rhymed puns and sentimental art.

The title sets the scene for what’s to come: The owl asks the owlet as they fly together, “WHOO loves you?”; the kangaroo and joey make each other “very HOPPY”; and the lioness and cub are a “PURRRFECT pair.” Most of the puns are both unimaginative and groanworthy, and they are likely to go over the heads of toddlers, who are not know for their wordplay abilities. The text is set in abcb quatrains split over two double-page spreads. On each spread, one couplet appears on the verso within a lightly decorated border on pastel pages. On the recto, a full-bleed portrait of the animal and baby appears in softly colored and cozy images. Hearts are prominent on every page, floating between the parent and baby as if it is necessary to show the love between each pair. Although these critters are depicted in mistily conceived natural habitats and are unclothed, they are human stand-ins through and through.

The greeting-card art and jokey rhymes work for the baby-shower market but not for the youngest readers. (Board book. 6 mos-2)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1374-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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