Readers will almost feel the wind in their hair and hear the thunder of hooves as they are inspired to pursue their dreams....

IF I HAD A HORSE

A young child imagines having a horse for a companion.

It is the stunning illustrations that will catch readers’ eyes first. Unusually rich silhouettes that portray motion-filled interaction fill each double-page spread. The lush gouache paintings depict the child and the horse—some pictures closely cropped—in silhouette with minimal backgrounds that are rendered in bold, often primary colors that use the diffusion of the medium to suggest detail. They are evocative of movement, dreaming, and daring: a child’s imagination run wild and free. They pair perfectly with the text, in which the young child, of indeterminate gender and race, imagines what it would be like to have a horse: “If I had a horse, we would be brave together.” While the child’s longing is wistful, at its core it is also inspirational, as the story is an allegory (“I would have to be strong. Like him”) about how it takes discipline, trust, fearlessness, and courage to make dreams come true. And when the child says, “I might have to tame him,” readers may understand the metaphor for taming one’s own eagerness and impetuousness that could get in the way of dreams realized.

Readers will almost feel the wind in their hair and hear the thunder of hooves as they are inspired to pursue their dreams. Beautiful. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-908-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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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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