RED SLED

Judge’s latest may be virtually wordless, but it packs a powerful visual punch that will stick with readers long after the final page is turned.

At the end of a winter day, a child props the titular sled outside a cozy cabin. A bear finds it there and sets off to enjoy the ride of all rides, joined in turn by some other forest denizens. As each joins the ride, the animals’ positions change: The bear is on his back with the rabbit perched on his feet, then he is atop the moose’s antlers, a position next occupied by an exhilarated-looking porcupine. By the end of the hill, the tower of animals on top of the sled is quite shaky and collapses, “fluoomp…….ft” in a heap. The entirety is wordless but for the carefully chosen onomatopoeic words that perfectly capture the sounds and bring the adventure to life: the "scrinch scrunch" of footsteps in new snow, the "sssssffft" of the sled on its run and the “whoa” of the animals as they enjoy the ride. When the fun is over, they return the sled to the cabin, where the child puzzles over the footprints in the morning. Though rendered simply, Judge’s pencil-and-watercolor animals are gloriously full of life and infectious joy. Readers will be hard-pressed to finish this without letting their own joy show through.

Pure genius. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2007-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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