Gorgeously whimsical and utterly convincing.

THE MIDNIGHT FAIR

What happens after the midway closes and rides shut down for the night?

Forest animals—deer, bears, squirrels, a stoat, a badger or two, a wolf, a fox, rabbits, mice—peer from the shadows of trees by the field where trucks arrive to set up the county fair. They watch from the edge of the woods as the fairground fills with humans who stay late into the evening. The families leave, the caretaker pulls a large switch, and the fairground is, for a moment, dark and empty. Only the silhouettes of the creatures can be seen against the dark forest, along with many pairs of glowing eyes, moving toward the now-quiet fairground. A lively after-hours adventure follows. Two raccoons flip the switch on as furry fairgoers bring mushrooms, wildflowers, pine cones, and acorns for payment. Di Giorgio interprets Sterer’s wordless tale in a rich, soft palette, with dramatic full openings and multiple detailed frames conveying the excitement, the lights, the smells of popcorn and fairground foods, the sounds of rides and riders. Even the harmless flames of the Dante’s Inferno ride seem fun. Animals whirl in teacups, ride the roller coaster under the moon, and leave at dawn, tired, happy, and a bit sticky. The wolf, at the edge of a lake, releases a goldfish won at the ring-toss booth. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.1-by-22.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 21.5% of actual size.)

Gorgeously whimsical and utterly convincing. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1115-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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