BIRDHOUSE FOR RENT

Told from the unusual first-person point of view of a birdhouse, this picture book begins with the arresting announcement, “I am a birdhouse,” over a picture of a birdhouse sporting a For Rent sign. Below, at a discreet distance, sits an intensely interested party: a cat. The stage is set. As the birdhouse waits, the seasons progress, birds fly past without interest, and some unsatisfactory renters move in: wasps and chipmunks. Finally, to the birdhouse’s delight, a chickadee moves in and lays eggs, three of which are stolen by the canny cat. When the rest of the chickadees are strong enough, they fly safely away. Bringing the story full circle, the birdhouse is for rent once more, with the farm cat still lurking—but much closer than in the first scene. The expressionistic paintings add much to this simple drama in nature. Using a saturated palette, as rich as melted crayons, the illustrator keeps the golden-yellow birdhouse, its color echoed in the stripe of the tiger cat, at the center of most paintings. Its round door is eye-like as it watches alertly for prospective tenants in the outside world and overlooks the chickadee family once they have settled in and their eggs have hatched. Interior perspectives of the birdhouse fill the page with nest, eggs, and subsequently plump baby birds. The drama is heightened by a view of one large cat’s eye peering in at the tempting, unprotected eggs. The only barrier to the story’s guaranteed success is presented on the first page when the rental birdhouse declares, “As you can see, I am vacant. I have no tenants.” The youngest children, who might enjoy the story, may have little grasp of the concepts of rental, vacancy, and tenants. But the seductive art makes it more than worthwhile to explain. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-04881-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walter Lorraine/Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice.

LITTLE JOE CHICKAPIG

Is it a book about aspirations or the backstory for the board game?

Chickapig is defined as “an animal hybrid that is half-chicken and half-pig” and is depicted in yellow, two-legged chick shape with pink pig snout and ears. Young Joe Chickapig lives on a farm that was his grandfather’s dream, but it’s getting Joe down. He dreams of adventure but needs the “courage to follow his heart. / But how could he do it? How could he start?” In a bedtime story, Joe’s mother shares the influential characters that helped Joe’s sailor grandfather “follow his heart against the tide.” It seems that “Grandpa had heard a story told / Of a great big bear who broke the mold. / The bear was tired of striking fear”—so he became a forest doctor and a friend to all. And the bear’s inspiration? “A mouse who went to space.” The mouse, in turn, found hope in a “fierce young dragon” who joined a rock band. And coming full circle, the dragon found courage from a Chickapig warrior who “tired of shields and swords to wield” and established a farm. Chickapig game fans will appreciate this fanciful rhyming tale illustrated in attention-grabbing colors, but readers coming to it cold will note a distinct absence of plot. Mouse and dragon present female; all others are male.

Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7944-4452-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Printers Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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