An enormously satisfying surprise completes this wholly original narrative.

THE FOX ON THE SWING

This Lithuanian import portrays the friendship developing between a boy and a fox.

An omniscient narrator introduces Paul’s family: His father pilots a helicopter, and his mother makes pottery. More unusual is their dwelling, which is a tall tree in the park. Close observers of the zany mixed media and digital collages will glimpse a bushy orange tail early on. Paul’s first encounter with the lanky fox, clad in blue boots and enjoying a swing in the park, is during his daily walk home from the bakery. Although the fox engages in philosophical and somewhat mysterious conversations (reminiscent but not duplicative of her counterpart in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince), the boy anticipates these visits even though it means sharing his bakery treat. He learns how to be a friend in ways appropriate to her moods, especially exulting in the swinging and shouting about things that make them happy. Suddenly concerned one day, Paul asks: “Will I always find you here?” She replies: “Of course not….When I need to be somewhere else, that’s where I’ll go.” The text is longer than in many American picture books, but there is much to savor: the honesty of unspoken ruminations, challenging dialogue, and myriad unexpected details, such as a sign-carrying parade of protesting birds. The humans’ skin tones range from Paul’s paper-white to pink or red.

An enormously satisfying surprise completes this wholly original narrative. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65156-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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