THE SPECKLED FEATHER

Three birds living on the back of an elephant find their lives disrupted when they come across a speckled feather.

Beginning her story with “Once upon a time,” Ries introduces three birds named Ade, Emem, and Nuru that live on the back of an elephant on the African savanna. Theirs is a tranquil, symbiotic relationship. Sitting high up, the birds are safe from predators, and in return they feed off the insects on the elephant’s skin. One day, a gust of wind blows in a bright, speckled feather that ends their peaceful existence. The birds squabble, as each one wants the feather for itself. Upset, the elephant demands the bickering end before they are allowed back on his back. Only when their lives are in danger do they finally understand their friendship is more valuable than the feather. This is an old story that has been told many times before. The setting may change, the characters may change, the intruding object may change, but the underlying story arc remains the same. What is truly special here is the beauty of the soft artwork, which has the feel of watercolor. In this translation from German (Die Fleckenfeder), debut author/illustrator Ries plays with color and perspective to great effect. Yellows and flecks of gold evoke the heat of the savanna. Close-ups make the squabbling feel immediate. And two double-page spreads in which a wild dog attacks the birds are outright gripping.

A visual delight. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4447-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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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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