A whimsical take on a garden’s busy, interconnected ecosystem.



An uninvited seed falls and roots in a garden, inconveniencing dwellers both above- and underground.

Its roots advance, breaking through mole Yvonne’s bathroom ceiling, disrupting Susie Field Mouse’s birthday party, and complicating the ants’ tunneling. After Yvonne’s fruitless repairs and the mouse family’s second ruined house, the community calls an emergency meeting and decides to cut down the plant. As Mr. Field Mouse prepares to bite the stem, Jack, a green-clad, mouse-sized humanoid, intervenes. “Is this plant so terrible?” After all, it’s provided shade for Mr. Gnome’s house. Perhaps the mice children could play in its branches, from which the ants could spy new tunnel routes. “And don’t forget its fruit!” The interloper, indeed, is a tomato plant: A new plan emerges. Canadian Dubuc’s pictures, rendered in flat color and simple line, depict the underground homes as cozy, comfortably furnished rooms. The matter-of-fact text, translated from French, notes that the residents grow appreciative of the tomato plant’s “many merits, and were quite content once again.” Jack, Mr. Gnome, and the ants are white-faced. Cross-section visuals depict the ants’ expanded tunnel network, the tomato’s extensive root system, and Yvonne sharing her home with the mice. Small details—a clothesline with Mr. Gnome’s polka-dot underwear; items such as a key and a diamond suspended underground—provide additional fun.

A whimsical take on a garden’s busy, interconnected ecosystem. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0207-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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