SWAN IN LOVE

Bunting (A Picnic in October, 1999, etc.) pens a sweet story about a swan in love with the wooden swan figurehead on a little boat. Swan (no relation to Proust’s character of the same name) is hopelessly in love with the carved swan that adorns the front of a boat named “Dora.” The other swans in the lake and the other animals—even the fish and the frog—mock his impossible love. Instead of migrating south with the other swans in the fall, Swan stays behind to keep Dora company during the winters. At the end of one winter, both Dora and Swan are showing signs of aging—Dora is full of cracks, is more gray than white now, and when she’s put back into the water, she leaks badly; and Swan is slower and stiffer than he used to be. When Dora’s human owner announces that the boat can’t be fixed and will have to be destroyed, Swan goes crazy and attacks the man. But the love between Swan and Dora is too strong to be sundered, and both real and wooden swan are transformed into water lilies that float side by side on the lake. The pastel illustrations are absolutely exquisite and the depictions of the animals, especially the frog, are enormously appealing. But the moral this story delivers is a tad on the heavy-handed side—phrases such as “love was never wrong,” “difference makes no difference to love,” and “love makes magic” all hammer home the “love conquers all” message. While this is an agreeable story, it’s not entirely successful, never quite becoming the magical tale it strives to be and of questionable interest to children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-82080-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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