BABY BEAR

The award-winning Nelson turns from nuanced treatments of historical subjects to this exploration of a classic preschool trope: a lost animal’s search for home.

Baby Bear wanders before a huge, rising full moon, encountering a succession of forest animals. Each—whether a frog caught midmunch or a towering, pensive moose—offers a bit of gentle advice. Strung together, these gems could stand as a guide to life for readers of all ages: Retrace your steps. Trust yourself. Hug a tree. Listen to your heart. Climb a little higher. Sing a song. Look up and keep going. Yet owing to Baby Bear’s childlike vulnerability, all this imparted wisdom can be psychically tough to implement in the moment. There’s poignancy in certain spreads, in which Baby Bear tries enacting just-received advice. When Moose asks “Hello, Baby Bear. / What are you doing?” Baby Bear demurs: “Uh, nothing.” (The cub’s hugging a tree, on counsel of a couple of squirrels.) Nelson’s marvelous oils play with light and alternating perspective. Against the starlit, velvet-blue sky, the luminous moon picks out the whiskers and tawny fur of Mountain Lion. It’s dawn when Salmon leads Baby Bear through the final leg of the journey home. Integral endpapers frame the story: At front, golden moonlight pools in a river bend; at back, the sun’s rays pour over the ridge. Children will enjoy spotting several of the narrative’s animals in miniature. Resonant. (Picture book. 4-7)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-224172-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Hee haw.

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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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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