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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Hee haw.

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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