ALL ABOARD!

This fluid locomotive voyage starts rolling even before the title page with a “Choong. Choong. Choong. Choong,” as readers follow the journey of Mr. Barnes, a large purple-suited rabbit, and his travel mate—a young girl. Ray (Red Rubber Boot Day, 2000, etc.) calmly alternates between characters’ actions and striking descriptions: “A city slides by, strung with lights in the night, like a tug of dreams on a river.” The language is rhythmic and rich with auditory treats, but sets a leisurely pace that could lose a young reader’s attention. Fortunately, the art is captivating; oversized pages are filled with striking scenes of countryside and urban landscapes, interesting perspectives, and clever details enough to require repeated explorations. Characters (who are all animals other than the girl) and objects in fuzzy pastels are collaged together within the train cars, creating a cozy potpourri that hits a safe note for inexperienced solo travelers. They’ll watch passengers read, snooze, snack, or just look out the window. It’s the perfect depiction of train travel: everyone “has somewhere to go” and yet is luxuriously suspended in time. The ending, though the reader gets a glimpse of a stuffed rabbit in the little girl’s backpack at the beginning of the story, comes as a delightful surprise that provides a nice punctuation to an otherwise uneventful ride. Mr. Barnes isn’t a tall, dapper fellow after all, but only a stuffed animal. When the girl departs the train and is greeted lovingly by her grandparents, Mr. Barnes again pokes out of her backpack, reminding readers both young and old that a train can take you anywhere your imagination is willing to go. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-316-73507-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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