There are lots of children’s books about cute bears who talk like people, but few are as cleverly put together and as witty...

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ALBERT'S TREE

A wailing, sad tree poses a problem for a loving bear just waking from hibernation.

When Albert, a cuddly brown bear, wakes up as the snow starts to melt, he knows exactly where to go. His tree, which is perfect to him (“Not too hard, or too soft, or too slippery, or too prickly”), is waiting. But the tree doesn’t seem as happy to be reunited; it begins to cry uncontrollably, leading Albert and forest friends such as Rabbit and Caribou to offer possible remedies, from digging holes to play in to gathering grass to eat. When Albert tries a big bear hug, he finds that Tree is harboring a resident, Owl, who is crying aloud for fear of the big, furry monster lurking nearby. (It’s Albert, of course.) The picture book is as cozy and familiar as a teddy bear’s embrace, but smart touches elevate the story. They include vignettes against white space that contrast beautifully with more detailed and colorful spreads that give a wider view of the world around Albert. And by naming Albert alone of the characters, Desmond keeps readers’ sympathies squarely on the well-meaning mammal. If that weren’t enough, the endpapers include a lovely cutaway view of underground hibernation and a hilarious offhand joke that add beauty and charm, respectively, to an already endearing effort.

There are lots of children’s books about cute bears who talk like people, but few are as cleverly put together and as witty as Albert’s little adventure. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9688-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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