Young readers will definitely need help with the lengthy “Keeping Your Cat Safe” afterword, but it only serves to make this...



Inside cat KokoCat finds the outside world dangerous and scary.

KokoCat loves sunbeams and chattering with birds and squirrels—through the window screens. She’s good at naps and keeping clean, like every well-loved indoor kitty. One morning when the door stays open a bit too long, KokoCat makes a break for what she’s seen beyond her window, and no amount of calling from her human gives her pause. She’s not out long before a large orange tomcat attacks her. Though she escapes, she’s hungry. Birds are too fast, so she licks a hamburger wrapper and drinks from a stale puddle. The final insult and injury: a night of rainstorms. KokoCat curls up under a Dumpster, missing her home and her humans. When she hears a familiar voice in the morning, she runs to it, and, after a trip to the vet to attend to her wounds, she is an indoor cat forever. Graham-Barber’s simple tale of an inside cat on the run might not be a bedtime-story choice, but it is a solid informational title on pet care for young cat lovers. Lane’s beautiful, bright watercolors depict an amazing array of emotions on the face of the realistic protagonist.

Young readers will definitely need help with the lengthy “Keeping Your Cat Safe” afterword, but it only serves to make this an even more valuable title. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-940719-12-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Gryphon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Hee haw.

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...


Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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