Fascinating, eerie…perhaps frustrating—be ready for conversation.

READ REVIEW

ANIMAL CITY

A complex, stunning Portuguese import.

What begins as a fanciful story about a lone girl with straight, black hair and skin of an unnatural coral hue takes a turn toward the mysterious and, perhaps, dystopian. The jacket art and case cover—done, as is the rest of the book, in a bold, saturated palette—present a striking depiction of what may be read as a zoo or animal preserve. But then readers learn that “Nina likes to visit the jungle city,” and they see a small, stick figure of a girl precariously hanging from a large, metal structure and gazing over the landscape. Ensuing pages show her interacting with animals in an increasingly bizarre setting that melds the urban with the wild. Digital illustrations have the look of prints, broad, flat applications of color overlapping in a way that emphasizes how the wild has taken over. No other humans appear, but Nina seems at peace and enjoys reading to the animals. In a metafictive twist, “the story the animals like best… / is this one: the one about them. / The story takes place in a quiet spot… / where humans once lived… / and where nature now runs wild.” The book never explains what happened to the people of this city nor where Nina comes from and returns to. While some readers may be intrigued and provoked to speculation, others may find this ambiguity unsatisfying or troubling.

Fascinating, eerie…perhaps frustrating—be ready for conversation. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7029-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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