A fine addition to the fairy-tale shelves. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)

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HANSEL & GRETEL

Hobbie’s stripped-down retelling of “Hansel and Gretel” maintains a high degree of fidelity to the classic fairy tale, while her illustrations reveal a rich array of artistic influences on her visual interpretation of the story.

Befitting the tragic beginnings of the tale, Hobbie eschews the pastoral, light style she’s known for in her eponymous commercial illustrations and in the Toot and Puddle books. Eerie, dark landscapes abound, and shades of German expressionism are apparent in the hollow, gaunt faces of the woodcutter and his wife, while the children’s waiflike but spritely depictions bring to mind the earthy style of illustrator Brock Cole. The witch, meanwhile, is white of face, round of form, and spindly-limbed, making her reminiscent of the wicked crones found in Anthony Browne’s and Lisbeth Zwerger’s retellings of the same tale. This is not to say that Hobbie’s work is derivative, and given her usual style, it’s remarkable that her strongest pictures are those that indulge in the dark and dreary. There are also some marvelous, cheery compositions, including the one depicting the children’s reunion with their father. Here, he stands before a white sheet hanging on the line, creating a natural bright highlight behind his open arms as his children run toward him.

A fine addition to the fairy-tale shelves. (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-07017-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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