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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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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