Wonderfully cinematic and surreal for readers willing to go with Alvin’s flow.

READ REVIEW

THE JOURNEY OF ALVIN

Alvin rides his old mower to visit his brother, taking a slow journey across a beautiful landscape and enjoying the ride.

This artful storybook app combines soothing narration, measured pacing and striking use of colors to create a pleasurable, cinematic experience for young readers. As Alvin slowly bumps along, an eclectic assortment of vehicles pass him—from “the farmer’s stinky truck” to “music-making bicycles” ringing their bells. Alvin lives in the moment, never bothered by his slow speed. “By going at this speed, so slowly, so slowly… / he could hear the concert provided by the chirping birds, / and the animals of the forest.” Composed of geometric shapes, the illustrations have a decidedly retro look, and yet the color scheme is thoroughly modern, filled with subdued complementary colors. Text and narration are available in English and Spanish, with easy controls. Sound effects and music help immerse readers in the slow-moving scenes. A few inconsistencies may nag at literal-minded youngsters. Readers are told Alvin has a white beard, and yet the illustrations show it to be yellow. When the turtle momentarily hunkers down in its shell, it continues to move even though it is not walking. The setting transitions from a desert plateau to a seaside town briefly without any discussion.

Wonderfully cinematic and surreal for readers willing to go with Alvin’s flow. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: meikme

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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