Images to return to again and again, with the text a jumping-off point to a sweet philosophy.

I WISH I HAD...

The unseen and unnamed narrator of this Italian import wishes for many lively and thoughtful things.

That child wishes for the eyes of a blackbird, so to see every blade of grass in the meadow, the “forest of thoughts” that a deer listens to in the woods and the wings of a goose on the first day of flight. The narrator wants to have the “quick heart” of a mouse escaping the cat, the voice of the whale and the gaze of the owl. While these many wishes are sometimes awkwardly phrased in English and don’t have much music behind them, the pictures go a long way toward capturing the magic. The blackbird, a dark matte shape across two pages, is in a meadow of feathery grass fronds and delicately sketched wildflowers. Two mice sip from tiny glasses of orange juice while two others alertly try to hide from the oncoming cat. The lemurs swing from branches that are actually urban apartments. The last wish is for the ears of an elephant “to hear what the heavens say,” and that elephant has images of animals, trees, birds and flowers sketched all over his body, like gossamer tattoos.

Images to return to again and again, with the text a jumping-off point to a sweet philosophy. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5415-5

Page Count: 27

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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