A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age.

READ REVIEW

LION AND MOUSE

Buitrago and Yockteng’s latest literary endeavor reconsiders a well-known Aesop fable.

A lion and a mouse live in the woods among other creatures big and small. The mouse, “a busybody and a glutton,” one day decides to enter the lion’s home uninvited. Before the rude guest can leave, the “very lovely” lion seizes him by the tail. The lion threatens the mouse, who would rather not be eaten. (He intends on meeting his girlfriend, after all.) So, the mouse offers to repay the lion someday in exchange for his life. The lion, ever a generous host, laughs off the proposal “as only lions can” but casts the mouse out instead of eating him. Naturally, the lion must swallow his pride the next day after falling prey to a hunter’s trap. At first, the lion doesn’t recognize the mouse “because all mice looked alike to him” (a telling detail), but the mouse nonetheless frees the frightened feline from an unfortunate fate. Up until now, the story beats remain the same as Aesop’s as Buitrago weaves this familiar tale, lacing it through with enough peculiar details to build strong personalities for the lion and the mouse. The author, however, continues the story and moves beyond the well-worn fable to ascertain how a friendship can forge itself, stemming from reciprocated kindness. Yockteng’s ferocious, low-key mixed-media artwork features stunning vignettes and page-filling spreads of woodlands populated with curious creatures.

A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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