Sincere and serene, with masterful, atmospheric illustrations.



Three anthropomorphic squirrel siblings explore the diminishingly snowy landscape of their forest home in this picture book.

First published in Japan in 1985, author/illustrator Iwamura’s quiet story has a timeless and ethereal feel. While the story is cutely ingenuous, the main appeal is the masterful watercolor illustrations, which are all full-bleed, double-page spreads rendered in a soft gray-green palette for the woods, while the squirrel protagonists, dressed in old-fashioned clothing (think Beatrix Potter), are rendered in complementary soft oranges and browns. The landscapes are gently layered; the pale branches of trees overlap and become darker as the perspective moves closer to viewers; the overall effect is one of deep, magical atmosphere. Three young squirrel siblings, Mack, Molly, and Mick, go out exploring in the melting snow and are curious about where the snow goes. They see a floating log and hop on, drifting (now anxiously) to a large pond, where they are rescued by some mallards, who tell them that the melted snow “goes to a river and then to the sea…it’s a time of rebirth.” The rhyming text, translated from the Japanese into German by Rose Pflock and then into English by Wilson, has a few awkward moments when it reaches for the rhyme as well as some disjointed areas. Still, it mostly succeeds at creating a lilting tone while getting across the deeper theme of the rebirth of spring, which is presented without fanfare or sanctimony.

Sincere and serene, with masterful, atmospheric illustrations. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4345-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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