Well-worn tropes but a charming adventure story with a resourceful heroine.

Felicity ~

A SPARROW'S TALE

In this illustrated chapter book for middle-grade readers, a brave little sparrow agrees to go on a dangerous journey and free the fairy queen from her evil hawk captor.

Felicity is an ordinary brown sparrow who loves to read. She was taught by Augustus, an ivory-billed woodpecker, who took care of Felicity after a hawk killed her parents. One day, a tiny man dressed in leaves—a fairy named Colin, it turns out—shows up at Felicity’s nest, looking for the woodpecker, who’s needed by the fairy king. But Augustus hasn’t been around, and no one knows where he is. As Colin leaves in disappointment, he’s attacked by a hawk, Felicity warning him just in time (though his wings are damaged). A kind soul, Felicity offers to fly Colin home to the Wildwood. There, she learns that Colin is the son of King Taron and that his mother, Queen Lilia, has been imprisoned by evil sorcerer Grak, called the Night Hawk. An enchantment protects his lair from fairies; birds can enter, but getting past the stone door requires reading the password written there (fortunately, Augustus is literate, as is Felicity). Though frightened, Felicity takes on the quest to brave Grak’s enchantments and rescue Queen Lilia, an adventure that will take strength, smarts, and determination. Evans (The Shores of Bountiful, 2013, etc.) presents an appealing heroine in shy but courageous Felicity, who puzzles things out intelligently while taking bold risks. The fairyland setting is well-drawn, with notable details like the fairy guards’ rose-thorn spears. Many elements of the story feel familiar: the ordinary young person who has something special; the heroine who overcomes tragedy; a puzzle in three parts; the there-and-back-again structure. Also, while Evans generally portrays a sparrow’s point of view well, she can be inconsistent: why would a bird who has no word for automobile (“featherless two-foot’s cart”) be able to correctly name “telephone wire”? Overall, though, Felicity makes an appealing character; youngsters who love to read will feel especially drawn to her.

Well-worn tropes but a charming adventure story with a resourceful heroine.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-692-30691-8

Page Count: 184

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

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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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Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S SPRINGTIME

From the Little Blue Truck series

Little Blue Truck and his pal Toad meet friends old and new on a springtime drive through the country.

This lift-the-flap, interactive entry in the popular Little Blue Truck series lacks the narrative strength and valuable life lessons of the original Little Blue Truck (2008) and its sequel, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way (2009). Both of those books, published for preschoolers rather than toddlers, featured rich storylines, dramatic, kinetic illustrations, and simple but valuable life lessons—the folly of taking oneself too seriously, the importance of friends, and the virtue of taking turns, for example. At about half the length and with half as much text as the aforementioned titles, this volume is a much quicker read. Less a story than a vernal celebration, the book depicts a bucolic drive through farmland and encounters with various animals and their young along the way. Beautifully rendered two-page tableaux teem with butterflies, blossoms, and vibrant pastel, springtime colors. Little Blue greets a sheep standing in the door of a barn: “Yoo-hoo, Sheep! / Beep-beep! / What’s new?” Folding back the durable, card-stock flap reveals the barn’s interior and an adorable set of twin lambs. Encounters with a duck and nine ducklings, a cow with a calf, a pig with 10 (!) piglets, a family of bunnies, and a chicken with a freshly hatched chick provide ample opportunity for counting and vocabulary work.

Uncomplicated fun that sets readers up for the earlier, more-complicated books to come. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-93809-0

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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