Whether read as Zen nature walk, bedtime story, or gentle science starter, this story begs to be visited again and again.


A nighttime woodland wander as simple, elegant, and classic as “Taps.”

“Hello, moon. / Goodbye, sun. // Night is near. / Day is done.” These simple words begin a spare rhyming text of about 110 words, opening the door to a magical nighttime animal world. Realistic illustrations in sunny shades morph into the blues of dusk and night, reemerging as the golden tones of dawn. An owl, a fox, raccoons, and mice “scurry pounce flutter [and] glide” as they explore, hunt, and play in the undergrowth. The mice may often seem to be in danger, but they are ultimately always safe. Most images read as nighttime, but each featured animal—and often its offspring—is spotlighted on the page and easily visible, making this a good group read-aloud. The color of the print also changes from black on light backgrounds to white on dark for legibility. However, subtle details are hidden in the shadowy illustrations, and some serious snuggle time with the book will reveal animal nests or dens, mice sneaking through most scenes, and other woodland creatures here and there. This gentle science lesson can be extended with a discussion about the difference between butterflies as creatures of the day and moths as denizens of the night. Although “wild winds blow, / lightning flash. // Thunder roars! / Raindrops splash,” the drama is muted as animals safely scurry home to a “warm and dry, / cozy lair.”

Whether read as Zen nature walk, bedtime story, or gentle science starter, this story begs to be visited again and again. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4701-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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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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