This popular author visits Asia for a charming tale of a plucky hen. Daisy knows she is loved—young Mei Mei has the six happiest hens in China—but she is tired of being pecked at by the other hens and driven from their cozy perch at night. One wet evening she curls up in one of Mei Mei’s market baskets, with its red Chinese characters reading “happy hens.” But the river takes the basket, and Daisy awakens to find herself far from Mei Mei. She fends off a dog, a water buffalo, and a pack of monkeys in a banyan tree, but is captured by a fisherman who sees his dinner in her plumpness. Mei Mei, after searching all over for Daisy, finally takes her eggs to market where she finds the fisherman who cries “Finders keepers!” Calling her chicken, Mei Mei whisks her away from the fisherman, taking her back to her perch where she uses what she’s learned to secure her place. Brett’s (Hedgie’s Surprise, 2000, etc.) brilliantly colored gouache and watercolor illustrations are pleasingly complex. Each double-page spread is framed by corner pieces edged in bamboo, with vignettes that reflect other action happening in the story at the same time as the main picture. Borders, backgrounds, and basketry patterns reflect many kinds of Asian decorative arts. Even the mountains and trees are often shaped like animals familiar to Brett fans. The hens are attractive and dignified, not anthropomorphized at all, yet individually drawn. The lesson of standing up for oneself is very gently etched in a read-aloud that will reward lots of poring over pictures. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23618-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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 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 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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