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THE PARAKEET NAMED DREIDEL

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. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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