Reminiscent of the succinct storytelling and expressive brushwork of Chris Raschka and Kevin Henkes, this quiet, historical...

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THE WHITE CAT AND THE MONK

A RETELLING OF THE POEM "PANGUR BÁN"

In the ninth century C.E., an anonymous, Irish Benedictine monk penned a poem drawing parallels between the pursuits of his cat and his own work; Bogart’s retelling and Smith’s paintings create an accessible window into this world.

The tale begins wordlessly with watercolor-and-ink compositions framed in sequential panels of varying size. Readers follow the titular feline from a forest into the monastery, where he pads under vaulted ceilings to a row of closed doors. From within one, light leaks out, and a robed man with a long, white beard welcomes his friend: “I, monk and scholar, / share my room // with my white cat, Pangur. / By candle’s light, late into the night / we work, each at a special trade.” The voice is lyrical yet easily understood. As the animal stalks a mouse, the monk studies a manuscript. The illuminated pages he pores over present cryptic, Celtic-inspired designs featuring the picture book’s characters. The palette shifts from shadowy panels with spots of golden light to colorful full bleeds depicting the open volume. Contentment and joy are reflected in text and image as the duo move toward the window; joined by a butterfly, they behold the “light in the darkness.”

Reminiscent of the succinct storytelling and expressive brushwork of Chris Raschka and Kevin Henkes, this quiet, historical gem will charm children and adults alike. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55498-780-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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