For all its simplicity, an episode rich in drama, humor, pathos, and thematic depth—with plenty of latitude for verbal...

BIRDSONG

A STORY IN PICTURES

Sturm pays tribute to the Japanese art of kamishibai storytelling with a wordless tale of two wicked children who are turned into monkeys.

Bearing sticks and angry expressions, a boy and a girl chase a red bird up a mountain slope—only to meet an enraged wizard who transforms them and leaves them to be chased by a tiger, then captured for a circus sideshow (“They Read! They Write!”). By the time they are released, both have undergone inner transformations too, and their reverent treatment of the bird when it returns leads to final glimpses of three birds flying off together. (Though inspired by the Japanese art, Sturm draws Western characters; the children and wizard are white, though the sideshow crowd is multiracial.) In an afterword with photos, Sturm (of the Adventures in Cartooning series) explains how traditional kamishibai works, drawing a clear connection between the art and graphic storytelling. He leaves decorated but otherwise blank pages opposite each of his cleanly drawn full-page illustrations throughout as silent invitations to viewers to supply their own narratives, dialogue, and sound effects to his story. Children will not be slow to take him up on the offer.

For all its simplicity, an episode rich in drama, humor, pathos, and thematic depth—with plenty of latitude for verbal embellishment. (resource list) (Graphic early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935179-94-8

Page Count: 60

Publisher: TOON Books & Graphics

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

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

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Hee haw.

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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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