A clear message wrapped in an enigmatic story with lovely illustrations

READ REVIEW

BEYOND THE FENCE

A pig who lives in the lap of luxury learns to walk on the wild side.

Piggy is an anthropomorphic pig who lives in an imposing country house with a human boy named Thomas. Thomas dresses Piggy as he wants, makes Piggy play what he wants, and talks Piggy’s ear off. A visit from Thomas’ cousin brings Piggy some relief, and he explores outside the house, encountering Wild Pig. Wild Pig is puzzled by Piggy’s clothes but is friendly, inviting his domestic cousin for a run. Piggy declines, returning to the confinement of the home. Eventually the cousin leaves, and Piggy must bear the brunt of Thomas’ attention himself—at which point he leaves Thomas’ tea party, sheds his clothes, and goes beyond the fence to join Wild Pig. Gulemetova’s quirky little tale tantalizes with its ellipses: How does Piggy come to live with Thomas? Where are Thomas’ parents? But even as it leaves questions dangling, it entrances young readers with its expansive, atmospheric illustrations. Inside Thomas’ house it’s all straight lines and sterile rooms; outside, the horizon is far away, and green hills beckon. Though children may find the idea of a talking pet pig who does what they demand thrilling, they will also see Thomas’ cruelty and, perhaps, examine themselves for similar self-centeredness. Thomas has beige skin.

A clear message wrapped in an enigmatic story with lovely illustrations . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-84643-931-5

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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