Fun-filled, delightful, and inventive.

A STRANGER COMES TO TOWN

Henry goes out with his sled and finds adventure on a snow-filled day in his very small Icelandic village.

He looks down from a slope and notices a large white shape on the beach and discovers that it is a very large polar bear. Polar bears can be fearsome, but this one seems shy and lost. His village is no place for a polar bear, so kindhearted, pragmatic Henry decides to help it find its way home. First a disguise is needed, in the form of a large red sweater and cap swiped from a clothesline. Several stops to assuage the bear’s hunger empty the food shops and leave the bear even larger than before. With Grandpa’s help and quite a lot of ingenuity, while still maintaining secrecy from the clueless villagers, they are able to get to the harbor, where they must use two boats in tandem to get their huge traveler safely home. The author/illustrator tells the spare tale in a matter-of-fact manner employing simple, brief sentences placed in a world of white, befitting the Arctic setting. The bright cartoon illustrations, appearing in small vignettes as well as single- and double-page spreads and on the endpapers, flesh out the story with imaginative, often hilarious details. Amid the fun is a gentle, subtle message about the very real plight of polar bears. Henry, Grandpa, and the villagers all present White.

Fun-filled, delightful, and inventive. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-76036-086-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Chilling in the best ways.

CREEPY CRAYON!

From the Creepy Tales! series

When a young rabbit who’s struggling in school finds a helpful crayon, everything is suddenly perfect—until it isn’t.

Jasper is flunking everything except art and is desperate for help when he finds the crayon. “Purple. Pointy…perfect”—and alive. When Jasper watches TV instead of studying, he misspells every word on his spelling test, but the crayon seems to know the answers, and when he uses the crayon to write, he can spell them all. When he faces a math quiz after skipping his homework, the crayon aces it for him. Jasper is only a little creeped out until the crayon changes his art—the one area where Jasper excels—into something better. As guilt-ridden Jasper receives accolade after accolade for grades and work that aren’t his, the crayon becomes more and more possessive of Jasper’s attention and affection, and it is only when Jasper cannot take it anymore that he discovers just what he’s gotten himself into. Reynolds’ text might as well be a Rod Serling monologue for its perfectly paced foreboding and unsettling tension, both gentled by lightly ominous humor. Brown goes all in to match with a grayscale palette for everything but the purple crayon—a callback to black-and-white sci-fi thrillers as much as a visual cue for nascent horror readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Chilling in the best ways. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6588-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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