A perfectly paced, holistically rendered home-away-home story

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OWL SEES OWL

Leaving the tree trunk where family slumbers, a fledgling owl explores the night world.

Wide awake, Owl hops out of the tree nest where mother, brother, and sister sleep soundly and, with a “Jump, Flutter,” and “Flap,” flies above the fall woods with its red and yellow leaves. Soaring upward, Owl’s eyes gleam in the moon’s beam while “Stars Twinkle” and “Mice Scamper.” Spying its reflection in some water, “Owl / Sees Owl,” causing the young bird to turn back home, flying above the mice beneath the stars, past moon beams gleaming in deer’s eyes, and over falling leaves to the family nest. The simple, often alliterative, onomatopoeic text forms a spare poem of single words arranged strategically on double-paged spreads to coordinate symbiotically with the luminous watercolor, colored pencil, ink, collage, and digital media illustrations, visually and verbally tracking Owl’s foray away from and return back home. Deft use of reflected light, bird’s-eye perspective, and a dark palette create an atmosphere of silent wonder. Observant readers will notice text and illustrations repeat in reverse order, beginning with “Home Mama Brother Sister” as Owl departs and closing with “Sister Brother Mama Home” as Owl returns safely home.

A perfectly paced, holistically rendered home-away-home story . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-49782-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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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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