Lovely, if poorly hung together


A visual rhapsody in blue.

The front endpapers of this slightly oversized picture book offer 32 daubs of blue ranging in value from pale blue to midnight blue, giving readers a sense of what’s to come. The opening text relates, “The day ends. / The night falls. / And in between… / there is the blue hour.” This is printed in blue, natch, on a pale-blue sky. As readers turn the pages, they are introduced to a dizzying variety of blue creatures, some generic (blue-feathered songbirds, silver-blue sardines) and others exotically specific (vulturine guineafowl, blue monkeys, blue poison dart frogs). As the titular “blue hour” progresses, page backgrounds deepen, until the final page, which presents silhouettes of many of the animals and plants described against a midnight-blue, star-spangled sky. Taken individually, each image dazzles, from an astonishing close-up of a blue morpho butterfly to an expansive landscape, the slightly paler-blue silhouette of a Russian blue cat slinking off in the bottom right-hand corner. Taken all together, however, there is a frustrating lack of definition, as these flora and fauna do not all inhabit one biome or even time zone, as the rear endpapers, a map of the world with white silhouettes of the animals placed where they are found, attest. This dismantles the inviting conceit of the “blue hour” as an organizational concept.

Lovely, if poorly hung together . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5488-9

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among


Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 45

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?