THE LITTLEST WOLF

Like eating at a restaurant called “Mom’s,” there are those who avoid any children’s title with the word “Littlest” in it. What a mistake that would be in this case. Brimner has written a wonderful and reassuring read-aloud, full of comfort, rhythm, and repetition. Aruego and Dewey (Weird Friends, p. 329, etc.) work their familiar magic, with waggish, big-eyed, slightly anthropomorphized animals and brilliantly patterned natural backgrounds. Big Gray (a wolf) is watching his pups, and asks Little One why he is not playing with his brothers and sisters. “Frankie said that I do not roll in a straight line,” he says. And indeed, Little One zigs and zags and rolls in a line with curves. But Big Gray says, “That is just as it should be. . . . Lines without curves come later.” Ana runs like the wind, and says Little One is a slowpoke. Little One runs like a soft breeze, but that too is as it should be—“Running like the wind comes later.” Tyler scoffs at Little One’s pounces, and Big Gray assures him that pouncing as high as the poppies is just as it should be for now. The interaction between dad and pup—Little One clambers onto his father, Big Gray places a huge claw on his son’s head, and by glance and gesture the comfort in the parent’s words become visible. In the end, Big Gray reminds Little One what the tiny acorn he’s been fidgeting with will become. Move over, Leo the Late Bloomer, it’s Little One’s turn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029039-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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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