A lovely collection for those who wish to emphasize the Christian nature of the holiday, worth savoring slowly during the...

MANGER

The eminent anthologist of children’s poetry has gathered together 15 poems from many sources, all centered around the theme of animals that might have been present on the night of the birth of Jesus.

An introductory poem by Hopkins sets the scene, with a striking illustration on the facing page depicting the animals looking up at a comet streaking through the night sky. Next is the rooster (also shown on the eye-catching cover illustration) who announces the birth to the world. Other animals include typical barnyard residents such as the sheep, horse, cow and goat, as well as less-expected creatures, like fish and a llama. Poets represented include X.J. Kennedy, Jane Yolen, Prince Redcloud and Alma Flor Ada. The final poem is a verse from the traditional carol “The Friendly Beasts,” describing “the donkey, / shaggy and brown” that carried Mary “safely / to Bethlehem town.” Intriguing collage illustrations using watercolor and mixed-media elements provide an elegant accompaniment to the short, quiet poems. Unusual perspectives show a cat from behind, a cow arching her neck and an owl in midflight seemingly ready to swoop off the page. All the animals gather around the manger in the final illustration, with the comet again shooting across the sky. The baby is in the manger but just barely showing, and Mary reaches out to pet the head of the shaggy, brown donkey to reward him for his faithful service.

A lovely collection for those who wish to emphasize the Christian nature of the holiday, worth savoring slowly during the Christmas season. (Poetry/religion. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5419-3

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Superficially appealing; much less so upon closer examination.

TOO MANY CARROTS

When Rabbit’s unbridled mania for collecting carrots leaves him unable to sleep in his cozy burrow, other animals offer to put him up.

But to Rabbit, their homes are just more storage space for carrots: Tortoise’s overstuffed shell cracks open; the branch breaks beneath Bird’s nest; Squirrel’s tree trunk topples over; and Beaver’s bulging lodge collapses at the first rainstorm. Impelled by guilt and the epiphany that “carrots weren’t for collecting—they were for SHARING!” Rabbit invites his newly homeless friends into his intact, and inexplicably now-roomy, burrow for a crunchy banquet. This could be read (with some effort) as a lightly humorous fable with a happy ending, and Hudson’s depictions of carrot-strewn natural scenes, of Rabbit as a plush bunny, and of the other animals as, at worst, mildly out of sorts support that take. Still, the insistent way Rabbit keeps forcing himself on his friends and the magnitude of the successive disasters may leave even less-reflective readers disturbed. Moreover, as Rabbit is never seen actually eating a carrot, his stockpiling looks a lot like the sort of compulsive hoarding that, in humans, is regarded as a mental illness.

Superficially appealing; much less so upon closer examination. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62370-638-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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THEY ALL SAW A CAT

Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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