While lacking the timelessness of Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed (2015) and the humor of Janet Stevens’ Tops and Bottoms...

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BADGER'S PERFECT GARDEN

There is no drought of picture books about animal friends making a garden. The hook in this one is the message that when plans go awry, there may still be a rainbow at the end.

It is spring. Badger has dozens of jars of seeds that he saved from last summer to plant the “perfect garden.” His friends Red Squirrel, Weasel, and Dormouse help him by raking and clearing the ground, marking the rows with string, and making holes for the seeds. They celebrate their efforts with muffins and mulberry juice. Over the next three days damp weather accelerates from showers to a heavy downpour, and Badger is unable to rescue his precious seeds from washing away. Badger tries to distract himself from his sorrow with chores and projects (and naps). Then one sunny summer day his friends rush in to tell him he has the perfect garden after all; the seeds just found new places to grow. The attractive, full-page illustrations show flair and gentle humor (Badger’s yoga practice will have readers chuckling). The animals are lightly anthropomorphic; all wear some sort of human garment or accessory, and the texture of the animal fur is beautifully realized.

While lacking the timelessness of Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed (2015) and the humor of Janet Stevens’ Tops and Bottoms (1995), the message of coping with unmet expectations and not giving up hope is worthwhile. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-53411-000-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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