A BIRD AND HIS WORM

A bird learns a lesson in friendship and conquers his fears—sort of—in Kaczman’s quirky work. “There once was a bird who did not fly,” reads the opening. “He preferred to walk. All the other birds thought his behavior was odd, so he spent most of his time by himself.” Expanding on the style introduced in When a Line Bends, a Shape Begins (1997), Kaczman’s colorful ink-and-watercolor illustrations, full of sharp angles and curving lines, picture the bird’s pointed beak next to the worm’s curving body. A full-bleed spread with an undulating left-side border ripples onto the facing page to meet the text. “ ‘Please don’t eat me!’ ” cries the worm. Being a bird of a different feather, so to speak, he eats only seeds and berries, believing worms to be “completely unappetizing”; hence, the two become fast friends. Kaczman varies the pacing as the pair goes for a stroll; a set of postcard panels—one bathed in shades of blue and green, the other in orange and yellow—show the two together from morning till night. When the two travel south aboard the back of a fox, first, and then a snake, both attempt to eat their passengers. Thankfully, the fox cottons to the mismatched companions and can’t stomach the idea of making a meal out of them; the snake, uncharmed, can’t slither fast enough to catch them. The clever ending shows the benefits of perseverance and sticking to your guns, made easier by a supportive pal. Kaczman’s sly, good humor, exuberant, original illustrations, and positive message make this a must read. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2002

ISBN: 0-618-09460-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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