A funny, delightful, beautiful, and triumphant tale of animal friendship.



Told in zappai (similar to haiku), this picture book celebrates an impish trick played by two orange chipmunks on a purple cat.

Less formal and technical than haiku, zappai also has 17 syllables in lines of five, seven, and five syllables but is appropriate for amusing verse. Orange chipmunk companions Sako and Suki live in Chipmunk Run, where they scamper about searching for food—but uh-oh. “Beware of the cat / Big Purple Fuji Mama— / She’s out for a meal!” The friends chip-chip a danger alert and run for their lives as the formidable feline pounces. They make it to their den, hugging each other, resting, and making a plan. With Fuji Mama now sleeping (and dreaming of chipmunks), Sako and Suki sprint past dangers and temptations to the field where catnip grows. Gathering some, they drop stinky leaves by the sleeping cat, who wakes “Mewing and purring / Drooling all over the place / Totally clueless.” The friends laugh at her (from a safe distance, of course)—until next time. Balsama (I Wish You Angels, 2009, etc.) packs a lot of entertainment and real emotion into these short but effective verses, which make good use of the zappai structure. The story is backed with her evocative, painterly illustrations in shimmeringly vivid, varying brush strokes. She skillfully captures the personalities of her animals: the chipmunks’ fear and tenderness for each other, a bullfrog’s mighty leap, and Fuji Mama’s silliness when high on catnip.

A funny, delightful, beautiful, and triumphant tale of animal friendship.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5439-0781-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Lit with sweetness.


Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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