Clarkson’s fans may like this, but Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, illustrated by Tim Bowers (2016), is a superior zoo...

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RIVER ROSE AND THE MAGICAL LULLABY

Little River Rose has a magical adventure in Clarkson’s debut as a picture-book author.

Depicted as a little white girl with straw-colored hair, River Rose is so excited about tomorrow’s trip to the zoo that she cannot sleep until her mother sings the titular lullaby. In the middle of the night, she is woken by balloons squeaking outside her window. Grabbing them and her little black puppy, Joplin, she sails through the night and is deposited in the middle of the zoo. There, she and Joplin are greeted by throngs of happy animals for a night of play. It all comes to a halt when the polar bears tell her they’d rather not play but sleep: “The trick to fun is to let the day be done. / That's the secret that we keep,” they say. In a closing sequence that will mystify many young listeners, River Rose and Joplin snuggle down with a big polar bear and three cubs and then, with the turn of the page, are back in bed, the magical balloons sparkling quietly to the side. Clarkson’s text unreels in rhyming couplets that often feel forced when read aloud but may sound just right in the accompanying download (not available for review). Hughes’ scratchy illustrations are appropriately ebullient but add little to the text.

Clarkson’s fans may like this, but Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, illustrated by Tim Bowers (2016), is a superior zoo adventure/song combo. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-242756-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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