While not the traditional holiday outcome, it should please celebrants and cat lovers all.

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WELCOMING ELIJAH

A PASSOVER TALE WITH A TAIL

Passover nights are different, happily so for a boy and a kitten.

It’s a Seder night, and a boy and his large family welcome guests to the festive holiday celebration. There are many rituals in the evening, including filling a cup of wine for the prophet Elisha, but his favorite is opening the door to welcome Elijah in. Writing in contrasting couplets, Newman relates the many elements of the holiday as “inside” activities. There are also “outside” goings-on. A fluffy white cat in the yard does feline things that seem to mimic what the family and their guests are doing except in one respect. The family enjoys plenty of good food while the kitten “swishe[s] his skinny tail.” Finally it is time to hold open the door, and who should be standing there but that irresistibly appealing fluffy white kitten. Boy and kitten, to be named Elijah of course, embrace as the others look on in joy. Gal’s softly smudged illustrations, rendered in ink, charcoal, and digital collage, warmly reflect the text’s contrasts, with bright yellows illuminating the household and iridescent blues bathing the outdoor scenes. The family and friends are racially diverse, with both black- and white-presenting group members. The boy himself presents white; the men wear kippot.

While not the traditional holiday outcome, it should please celebrants and cat lovers all. (author’s note, list of Seder rituals) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58089-882-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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