Brett excels at snowy settings, and her legions of fans will enjoy this well-told tale accompanied by her usual highly...

THE ANIMALS' SANTA

Brett’s latest holiday offering is set in northern Canada, featuring a cast of forest animals who celebrate Christmas together with handmade gifts left by their own special Santa.

On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe is explaining the holiday to his younger brother, Little Snow, who is experiencing his first holiday celebration. The older hare and the other animals describe the presents they have received from Santa in the past, though they have never seen him and don’t really know who he is. The animals decorate their Christmas tree as they speculate on Santa’s identity, suggesting other, larger animals, such as a polar bear or a moose. The main story takes place across the center of each spread, but in Brett’s signature structural design, on the side of each page is a separate panel that presents a secondary story. The frames of these detailed panels are done in the style of traditional quillwork, with intricately woven motifs and a central opening in each showing tiny, red-capped lemmings creating Christmas gifts from natural materials. The animals awaken as Christmas presents begin falling from the sky at midnight, and the final spread reveals the animals’ Santa as a snowy owl wearing a pointed, red cap and carrying a basket of handmade gifts.

Brett excels at snowy settings, and her legions of fans will enjoy this well-told tale accompanied by her usual highly detailed watercolor illustrations and skillfully integrated secondary story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25784-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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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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