This charmer demands and rewards repeat visits, and children will find unexpected pleasures every time.

ALL ALONG THE RIVER

Some rabbits sail down a river looking for a lost toy duck.

As Bunny plays with her toy in the small river near her home, it floats away; her two brothers immediately join the search effort. Adventure ensues as the trio pursues the yellow, red-scarfed duck in their boat, following the river as it courses through forests, pastures, waterfalls, flower fields, and farmland and past assorted structures. Alas, the duck consistently eludes them. This is where the reading/listening audience comes in, invited from the outset to collaborate in the Where’s Waldo?–type investigation. And the enterprise is playfully challenging, seeing as how the duck isn’t always willing to be located too easily. Expect kids to have great fun poring over the numerous tiny, sometimes complex, details incorporated into the delicate, colorful, busy line illustrations that fill every spread—along with myriad other anthropomorphic animal protagonists; information about how those characters fit into the grand scheme of things appears on an introductory spread before the book’s title page. There’s just enough minimal, pithy text per spread, often with tantalizing hints to the duck’s possible whereabouts, but the illustrations, naturally, are the main focus and draw. The ending presents two surprises—hint: The journey wasn’t exactly what it seemed—and a hitherto-unheralded creature invites readers to return to the illustrations and locate it.

This charmer demands and rewards repeat visits, and children will find unexpected pleasures every time. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60537-518-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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