Black and White Cat, White and Black Dog

In Shannon’s debut children’s book, a cat and dog go from apprehensive cohabitants to best friends.
When a small cat joins the home of a large dog, the two animals are initially suspicious of each other. Shannon’s pastel illustrations, in vibrant hues of lime green, cornflower blue, fire-engine red and tangerine, depict the peaceful home where the animals coexist as they keep watchful eyes on each other. Textured, undulating edged frames contain the simple images to create engaging compositions, and animal paw-prints add decorative flourishes on the pages’ corners. As the title suggests, the white dog with black markings and black cat with white accents are opposites, both in appearance and habits; the dog is loud and energetic, while the cat appears sharp and intimidating. The animals’ relationship changes one day when the dog shows the cat an unexpected kindness. The two soon learn that they share many common interests and become inseparable companions. Although Shannon’s prose isn’t particularly rhythmic, its language is simple and easy for young children to follow. However, the repeated identifications of the animals as “the white and black dog” and “the black and white cat” may prove to be tongue twisters when read aloud. At pivotal points in the story, Shannon pauses the narrative, asking young readers to consider the events: “White and black dog shared her food with black and white cat. What a nice thing to do. Are you surprised?” By engaging in such critical thinking, young readers may better absorb the story’s lessons about compassion and judging others by their characters. Although the unlikely companionship between a cat and a dog isn’t an especially original or exciting theme, the story’s moral is applicable and universally relatable to children. Furthermore, the vivid colors may help keep young eyes engaged.

A creatively illustrated, if often heard, lesson about acceptance and friendship for preschool to kindergarten-aged children.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989773201

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Muse Direct

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

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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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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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