Ethel may not win any cat marathons, but she’ll win hearts young and old.



When you’re set in your ways, little changes can really throw you.

Ethel the black-and-white cat is old and fat. Each day she sits on the porch and surveys her surroundings, monitoring the weather, chasing a few ants, and rolling on her favorite piece of sidewalk. “It wasn’t easy being Ethel, but she was good at it.” Then one afternoon, rolling on her sidewalk leaves her covered in blue chalk. The other cats comment on her new look, and that makes Ethel feel blue. She hides inside until she spies Fluffy, who, though usually white, is pink. Fluffy joins Ethel in her daily routines, and this time sidewalk rolling makes them both rainbow-colored. Ethel is still old and fat, but only sometimes white and black; with her young companion, she’s happy with that. Reinhardt’s tale of routine interrupted is a quiet one that highlights the power of friendship. When the other cats comment on Ethel’s new color, none says anything negative, but it makes her self-conscious. The final, wordless illustration of the whole troupe of them covered in rainbow chalk dust and a knowing smile passing between Ethel and Fluffy shows her confidence rebuilt. Watercolor-and-ink illustrations are scratchy and smeary and quite detailed (Fluffy has his eye on Ethel from afar from the start). Ethel’s corpulence is exaggerated by comically skinny and stubby legs, but her comfort with herself keeps the depiction from feeling mocking.

Ethel may not win any cat marathons, but she’ll win hearts young and old. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30382-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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


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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