This story is more than just a tale of sticking to your vision—it’s a small world unto itself. A keeper.

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BIG BEAR'S BIG BOAT

Bunting and Carpenter (Little Bear’s Little Boat, 2003) team again with a story riding on a Thoreau-vian sensibility with a Zen serenity.

Big Bear has outgrown his boat, so he has given it to Little Bear—who is having a blast with it—and embarked on building a bigger boat. It evolves from looking like a coracle to a whaler—a big rowboat—which is just the ticket, until well-meaning friends suggest Big Bear add a top deck, and a mast, and a cabin. Big Bear, no great carpenter, creates a shambling ramshackle of a boat—off true in every sense of the words. Big Bear gently tells his friends that the boat is not the one of his dreams. So he simplifies, simplifies, back to the big rowboat, back to something ancient and enduring, something to float on to watch the moon rise and the stars shoot, to take a nap to the lap of the water against the hull. The text has a clarity that could be set to music; Carpenter’s artwork is spare, but its colors couldn’t be more emotive and its poses more natural in their capturing of motion and mood.

This story is more than just a tale of sticking to your vision—it’s a small world unto itself. A keeper. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-58537-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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