Giggle-inducing buffoonery; but thankfully, bigger rivals don’t get the last laugh.



A tiny yellow bird has just finished building a nest, but other animals in the savanna think it looks like a good place to rest, too.

The design has been planned. The twigs gathered. One last leaf and the nest will be complete. But as the yellow bird flies happily toward the tree, a larger bird is already there. “You can build another,” says the bully of a bird. “I guess I could…” says the tiny, crestfallen bird. So plans are made again. Twigs are gathered. One last leaf—and suddenly there’s a fennec in the nest! Each attempt to build a cozy home brings a more absurd animal to the tree. A warthog, a gorilla, an elephant, and more balance precariously as they settle in, each with their own sound reason as to why the dwelling suits them. Frustrated and exhausted, the yellow bird finally finds some powerful help to knock everyone out of the tree. But maybe there is a way to share after all. Tsurumi’s expressive animals (sometimes uppity, sometimes sheepish—all forming a dejected, collective slump when they realize how they’ve treated their friend) definitely rule the roost. Laid out in mostly double-page spreads and with wry text set entirely in speech balloons, the visual storytelling easily engages readers, perhaps most impressively as the little bird scowls with determination, perched on a wildebeest’s horns as it charges directly at readers.

Giggle-inducing buffoonery; but thankfully, bigger rivals don’t get the last laugh. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2827-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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