OH LOOK, A CAKE!

A fractured fable about sharing.

A sloth and a lemur find a gorgeous cake: three-tiered, pink-frosted, topped by a single orange-and-black–striped candle. The two decide to throw a party, but whom to invite? Sloth tries making suggestions, but Lemur shoots them all down: They’re afraid that Tiger will eat the cake and then them; it’s too much work to serve tiny pieces to an entire anthill; Chameleon is nowhere to be found; and “Sugar does things” to Tortoise, shown singing into a microphone clad in a top hat and with an inflatable pool toy around his waist. The two animals decide that their only choice is to eat the entire cake themselves. When the rightful baker and birthday-cat, Tiger, sees what they’ve done, she ominously tells them that she “can still get it back.” There’s shades of Jon Klassen’s Hat trilogy here as well as Lucy Ruth Cummins’ A Hungry Lion (2016), and this is a worthy addition to the trend of picture books showing the more ominous consequences of one’s actions in an anthropomorphized animal kingdom. The effective use of background color, subtle expressions, gravity, and pacing make this a winning choice for storytime, so long as the audience can handle the implications of the ending. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 19.6% of actual size.)

Dark and delicious. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-38030-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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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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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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