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


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 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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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...


A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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