Lessons of patience, compassion, and sharing, delivered gently.



Stillwater, the wise panda from Muth’s Zen picture books is back.

Brother and sister Leo and Molly and their cat, Moss, have moved to a new neighborhood and find that their neighbor is a giant panda named Stillwater. Readers of Muth’s earlier books will be familiar with Stillwater’s serene grace as he delivers messages of life’s essence to young friends. In this book, filled with light-infused watercolors of uplifting hues, Stillwater teaches Molly, a dancer, the value of patience with his story of Banzo’s sword. The Zen story is encapsulated within the bigger story, set off by brushed-ink illustrations and ivory paper. When Leo visits Stillwater, wishing to play good-guy–bad-guy robots with him, Stillwater shows rather than tells what a bad guy is (by hogging all the cookies)—a graceful reminder to readers that no one is immune to selfishness. One day they all ride their bikes to the beach (the rather loose connection to the dancer-and-robot storyline is that they are all friends and do things together), where they discover starfish stranded as the tide goes out. As they begin to throw the seemingly endless starfish back into the water, they are rewarded at the end of the day by a beach empty of starfish and a sky filled with stars.

Lessons of patience, compassion, and sharing, delivered gently.   (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-16669-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


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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