The focus on friendly camaraderie and community-building will be appreciated by many adults eager to share their values, and...

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ARCHIE SNUFFLEKINS OLIVER VALENTINE CUPCAKE TIBERIUS CAT

A stray cat finds a cozy home, brings comfort to a lonely woman, and enhances the sense of community among a group of neighbors.

The multiply named hero of this British import is a simply drawn, rather portly calico cat. He slips in and out of the houses and lives of the people who live on Blossom Street. He enjoys (or merely tolerates) different activities in each house, eating fresh fish for breakfast, serving as an artist’s model, digging in the garden, bird-watching with a pair of binocular-wielding twins, and more. But there’s one house the cat doesn’t visit—until he does, and everything changes. Harnett’s colored-pencil artwork is reminiscent of Maira Kalman’s work, with lots of color and pattern, flattened perspectives, and a mix of double-page spreads, single-page illustrations, vignettes, and panels. The Blossom Street residents are pleasingly diverse in gender, race, and ethnicity, as revealed by skin tone, details of dress, and/or surname. Archie etc., meanwhile, appears utterly impassive and vaguely bored—i.e. totally, convincingly catlike. Dialogue balloons and sly humor enliven the deadpan text, which complements the quirky pictures perfectly.

The focus on friendly camaraderie and community-building will be appreciated by many adults eager to share their values, and this quiet tale, with the children in their lives. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-909263-37-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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