Berkson’s illustrations give this sweet tale a new life and a new audience.

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THE PARAKEET NAMED DREIDEL

Singer’s short story, first published in The Power of Light (1980) and now fully illustrated in a new picture-book version, depicts family, love, and marriage.

A lost, Yiddish-speaking parakeet arrives on the windowsill of David’s Brooklyn apartment, most likely attracted by the light of the family’s menorah. Unable to find its rightful owner, the family keeps the pet, and it quickly becomes an integral part of their lives for the next nine years. Berkson uses black-outlined soft watercolors to extend each development in the story beyond the original apartment-window scene. The flurry of activity created by the bird’s sudden appearance in the family’s quiet holiday evening is depicted with a series of vignettes around the text. A double-page spread emulating a photo album delineates David’s growth. These “photos” highlight music and art lessons, baseball, a growth chart, bar mitzvah, and graduation, all in black and white with only the green-and-yellow tint of Dreidel’s feathers and the bird’s red beak in each image. The presence of the parakeet in the boy’s life continues with Dreidel’s reunion with his original owner, now David’s new bride. A Chagall-like painting of the happy couple in joyful bliss floating through the sky with baby and Dreidel in tow adds a final touch of romance.

Berkson’s illustrations give this sweet tale a new life and a new audience. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-30094-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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