THE BEAR AND THE STAR

A lyrical testament to peace.

Nothing definitively marks this as a Christmas book, but readers may be cued to understand it as such due to the opening reference “to a star— / a new star, / barely visible, / yet larger than any before” that Bear spies “early one December morning.” This star signals that “it was time,” though for what remains a mystery until the book’s end. First Bear searches for “a tree— / a tree that would be strong, / a tree that would be tall, / a tree that would be the center / of all to come.” An ideal evergreen appears, again evoking Christmas, but with subtlety. The text and the oil paintings, which have a soft visual texture, then combine to depict a peaceable kingdom of animals from different habitats gathering around the tree before diverse people assemble, too. Ultimately, they come “to the tree / … / under a star / … / because it was time…” and then a final page turn delivers the concluding words, “for peace.” The accompanying illustration shows a woman with light-brown skin and black, straight hair holding a swaddled baby as she gazes up at the star. The scene evokes Madonna-and-child imagery, but it resists such an easy parallel with the inclusion of other figures: Behind the pair stands a child with similar coloring, before them a fawn, and cardinals fly through the snowy, starlit sky.

Serene yet enigmatic. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-266037-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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