Keep on puffin', Otis! (Picture book. 4-8)

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OTIS AND THE KITTENS

When there’s an emergency on the farm, can friendly tractor Otis save the day?

The farm hasn’t seen rain in a while, but there’s still plenty of work to do. Otis and the farmhands spend their days baling hay in the hot sun and loading it into the barn. Otis wants to rest, but his friend the bull wants to play tug of war. All the barnyard animals get into the game (though Otis is not particularly competitive, just enjoying his friends). Then they see a swirl of smoke in the sky. The barn’s on fire, and there's a distressed cat in the window. "With a putt puff puttedy chuff,” Otis rushes in. Otis carries the cat’s kittens to safety...but mama cat indicates one’s missing. He successfully rescues the last, but when the floor collapses, he’s trapped. The firefighters arrive and, because of the drought, decide to let the barn burn. Otis' animal friends take matters into their own hooves, bills, and paws and use their tug-of-war teamwork to rescue the little tractor. Long's seventh bucolic tale of an antique tractor with a smiling face and a good heart will please the little chuffer's many fans. The dynamic, fluid illustrations with a retro-rural vibe bring to mind Norman Rockwell's America with a Sunday comics spin. The theme of teamwork played out several times through the tale is communicated as simply as the tale itself.

Keep on puffin', Otis! (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16398-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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