Cozy—and potentially provocative.

WINTERCAKE

A snowstorm, a missing basket of fruit, a misunderstanding, and an act of kindness lead to a warm winter tradition.

Thomas, a light-brown furry creature (maybe a groundhog), tells his yellow-feathered friend Lucy that he must have misplaced the basket that contained the fruit he’d intended to bake into his winter cake. “How mysterious,” Lucy says when Thomas tells her about the basket. But Lucy must hurry to get home, as the snow has begun to fall thickly, and she flies off into the wind. She collides with a tree branch and is momentarily stunned, then takes shelter in a cozy tea room to recover. There, everyone is talking about the weather except for one dark brown–furred fellow (perhaps a pine marten) who mentions that he’s found a basket of fruit. Lucy leaps to conclusions and trails him as he departs, all the way to Thomas’ door, where he reunites Thomas and basket. Lucy is embarrassed by her suspicious thoughts. The simple story of her realization and her attempt to make amends is told in deliciously rich language so porous it opens up glorious possibilities for the illustrations: “there were obstacles.” Perkins’ art, with its warm yellows, opulent blues, and soft browns of wintry forest and cozy dens, nicely complements the fine narrative arc. This could simply be a splendid holiday tale: There is cake, after all, and there are both connection and community. But the different colorings of the animals’ coats combine with light-feathered Lucy’s false, if unspoken, accusation of innocent, dark-brown Tobin to offer an allegorical storyline for readers who care to pursue it.

Cozy—and potentially provocative. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-289487-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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