Arresting illustrations and prosaic observations don’t quite make a coherent whole.



Colorful, expressive pictures of cats are accompanied by brief text.

Each double-page spread features a feline portrait. From a swirly green, blue, and yellow cat stretching ecstatically to a cozy, curled-up kitty in warm shades of pink, red, and orange, 20 different cats are featured. The vivid artwork dominates. Bright hues, scribbly lines, and high-contrast backgrounds combine to create pictures that pop, and the relatively large trim size adds to their impact. The accompanying words, unfortunately, fail to match the illustrations’ intensity. They are written in a repeating pattern that includes the title, four lines/phrases, and (usually) a single word as the fifth and final line. Some are convincingly catlike. One cat’s angry diatribe over a thrown-away scratching post and another sly cat’s plan to pin the pet fish’s demise on the dog both seem believable and offer a hint of humor. Others depict situations that feel predictable, preachy, or even confusing: Why does one hearth-loving old cat claim to have 20 lives? Changes in type and font size as well as multiple exclamation points and ellipses are presumably meant to indicate emphasis but make for a too-busy read. The paintings were apparently originally published with poems by five different authors in the book’s original, Dutch edition; Spray’s text is original to this Canadian import.

Arresting illustrations and prosaic observations don’t quite make a coherent whole. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77278-087-1

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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