Old-fashioned in the beary best of ways.




A bedtime bear book with vintage flair.

This Dutch import via the U.K. looks like a throwback to the work of mid-20th-century artists such as Leonard Wiesgard, Alice and Martin Provensen, Feodor Rojankovsky, and perhaps even Robert McCloskey, so well-known for a bear book of his own. The sans-serif type used on the cover and interior pages adds to this modern aesthetic, but rather than make the book feel dated, it’s quite appealing. The engaging text doesn’t seem to lose anything in Watkinson’s translation as it tells the story of a little brown bear cub named Mika who doesn’t want to hibernate after an owl tells him about the northern lights. He sneaks out when his parents are asleep in their den and asks the animals he meets how to find them. Neither the moose, the crane, the wolf, nor the wolverine can help him, but when he again encounters the owl, they look up together and see how “all kinds of different colours lit up the deep blue of the night.” While Mika is caught up in his reverie with the northern lights, his parents arrive. They say they aren’t angry with him, but they were worried and explain that they followed his paw prints through the snow to find him. Their return back to their cave is a cozy end to a truly lovely picture book.

Old-fashioned in the beary best of ways. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-912497-01-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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