A magical artistic and informational world that readers will delight in visiting again and again.

READ REVIEW

OVER AND UNDER THE POND

The author-illustrator team that brought readers into the garden and under the snow (Over and Under the Snow, 2011, etc.) now takes them on a breathtaking journey beneath the calm waters of a pond.

Though the surface of the water seems calm, it is teeming with life, as a small black boy and his mother discover during an afternoon row. This book is another artistic triumph for Messner and Neal, whose perfect marriage of prose and pictures creates a lush, watery world filled with color and brimming with activity. Each double-page spread, done in a soothing palette of greens and blues, reveals the pond to be a vibrant and rich habitat where fish, amphibians, animals, and birds lay eggs, build nests, store food, and otherwise engage in the cycle of life. Each illustration focuses on a creature that lives either above or below the pond’s surface, and the child protagonist’s sense of wonder is mirrored by the author’s evocative prose. The events of the book occur within the space of one day, and as afternoon fades into evening, the yellows of the flowers and pink of the sky give way to night-blue in an arresting symphony of color. Well-researched backmatter provides inquisitive readers with additional information about the creatures they see.

A magical artistic and informational world that readers will delight in visiting again and again. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4521-4542-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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