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

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


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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