A mild introduction to painting masters’ styles, with elegantly appealing artwork of its own.

PAINTING PEPETTE

Seeking a formal portrait of her rabbit, a Parisian girl meets several artists.

Josette’s upper-class home has portraits of all her family members (all white, and none of whom appear otherwise), but there’s no portrait of Pepette, the stuffed rabbit she carries everywhere. Josette walks to Montmartre, the bustling outdoor square “where the best artists in Paris painted.” Four adult male artists try their hands at painting Pepette. One gives her two noses and three ears; one makes her look droopy; one shows her flying through the sky; and the final one, to Josette’s confusion, sees Pepette as being brightly colored. This is the 1920s, and adults will recognize the painters as Picasso, Dalí, Chagall, and Matisse. Here Fletcher misses an opportunity: while each portrait does feature known traits of its master—in addition to having extra features, Picasso’s cubist Pepette is angular, for instance—the portraits’ styles and colors don’t jump off the page as distinct from the illustrations overall. Confusingly, Matisse’s Pepette isn’t even really pink, as the text claims she is—she’s nearly the same color as her most accurate portraitist shows her to be, when that person reveals herself. Still, the illustrations are lovely, using daubed and layered watercolors with loose lines to create light, airy scenes that invite long savoring.

A mild introduction to painting masters’ styles, with elegantly appealing artwork of its own. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0136-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Chilling in the best ways.

CREEPY CRAYON!

From the Creepy Tales! series

When a young rabbit who’s struggling in school finds a helpful crayon, everything is suddenly perfect—until it isn’t.

Jasper is flunking everything except art and is desperate for help when he finds the crayon. “Purple. Pointy…perfect”—and alive. When Jasper watches TV instead of studying, he misspells every word on his spelling test, but the crayon seems to know the answers, and when he uses the crayon to write, he can spell them all. When he faces a math quiz after skipping his homework, the crayon aces it for him. Jasper is only a little creeped out until the crayon changes his art—the one area where Jasper excels—into something better. As guilt-ridden Jasper receives accolade after accolade for grades and work that aren’t his, the crayon becomes more and more possessive of Jasper’s attention and affection, and it is only when Jasper cannot take it anymore that he discovers just what he’s gotten himself into. Reynolds’ text might as well be a Rod Serling monologue for its perfectly paced foreboding and unsettling tension, both gentled by lightly ominous humor. Brown goes all in to match with a grayscale palette for everything but the purple crayon—a callback to black-and-white sci-fi thrillers as much as a visual cue for nascent horror readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Chilling in the best ways. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6588-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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