Gracefully told and illustrated, a gentle, positive encounter with a beautiful bird in an unfamiliar world.

LOTUS AND FEATHER

The rescue of a crane restores an unhappy girl as well.

Left voiceless by a recent illness, Lotus’ only companion is her reed whistle. Gathering reeds and playing her pipe on a lonely lake, the young Chinese girl sees a hunter shoot an endangered red-crowned crane. She rescues it and, with her grandfather, nurses the injured bird she calls Feather back to health. Still flightless, he follows her everywhere. When he dances to her music, her schoolmates dance along. One night, his warnings help save the villagers from a flood. In return, they work to keep hunters from the lake. By the time Feather flies free, Lotus has plenty of friends to keep her company. Downing’s finely crafted illustrations perfectly complement this reassuring story. Done with watercolor, pencil, and paint and digitally collated, they have the look of Chinese paintings, with misty backgrounds and gently bending reeds. The rosy-cheeked children wear red scarves, alluding to the author’s own childhood during the Cultural Revolution. The crane’s many graceful poses are beautifully conveyed, seasons change, and the backgrounds lighten from gray to a celebratory rose. The environmental message, Grandpa’s explanation that “greedy fishermen and hunters, and…ignorant people…took over land where animals once lived,” is slightly contradicted by the satisfying ending when the cranes return, but it may resonate.

Gracefully told and illustrated, a gentle, positive encounter with a beautiful bird in an unfamiliar world. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2754-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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