Edgier than Sesame’s original, this contains all the layered meaning that makes Sendak’s books readable over and over....



A master reincarnates his old Sesame Street cartoon with a dark pathos and fascinating manic energy.

As one of the original architects of gleeful mischief and serious woe in modern picture books, Sendak employs both here. “Did you know / That Bumble-Ardy missed / Eight birthdays in a row?” opens the narration, the weeping porcine protagonist placing trotter to forehead. His original family “frowned on fun” and then (being pigs) “got ate,” landing Bumble with adoptive “Adeline, that aunt divine.” Luckily, “Bumble-Ardy had a party when he was nine.” A pleasant, mild illustration shows Adeline in their slatted, open-air house presenting cake and gift, Bumble murmuring “Yippee!” But emotional complexity lurks: Bumble’s eyes are red-rimmed, and nearby animals look gloomy and skeptical. Adeline gone to work, Bumble (permission-less) invites “grubby swine // To come for birthday cake and brine.” Costumes evoke Bread & Puppet and Cinco de Mayo at this rambunctious masquerade ball; partiers revel with sinister gusto. During the multi-spread rumpus, rhyme sneaks onto signs: “Cheers! / Cheers! / Cheers! / May Bumble live 900 years!” When furious Adeline ejects the guests, her face morphs into a horror mask, but then she “Took in her Bumble valentine / And kissed him nine times over nine. // Now, ain’t that fine?” Children and parents both will require many trips through to even begin to accommodate the emotional shifts here.

Edgier than Sesame’s original, this contains all the layered meaning that makes Sendak’s books readable over and over. (Picture book. 4 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-205198-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Michael di Capua/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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Lit with sweetness.


Coco, who loves her gentle friend Bear, is shocked to learn that the other forest animals do not know about his kindness.

Inspired by one of her grandmother’s favorite maxims, Coco, a girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair, works with Bear to “share some kindness [and] bring some light” to the other animals in the forest. Interpreting it literally, the two make cookies (kindness) and lanterns (light) to share with the other animals. They trek through the snow-covered forest to deliver their gifts, but no one trusts Bear enough to accept them. As night begins to fall, Bear and Coco head home with the lanterns and cookies. On the way through the quiet forest, they hear a small voice pleading for help; it’s Baby Deer, stuck in the snow. They help free him, and Bear gives the young one a ride home on his back. When the other animals see both that Baby Deer is safe and that Bear is responsible for this, they begin to recognize all the wonderful things about Bear that they had not noticed before. The episode is weak on backstory—how did Coco and Bear become friends? Why don’t the animals know Bear better by now?—but Stott’s delicately inked and colored illustrations offer beguiling views of lightly anthropomorphized woodland critters that make it easy to move past these stumbling blocks. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67% of actual size.)

Lit with sweetness. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6238-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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