Being first is only fun—if it can be called fun—when it doesn’t entail learning the rude consequences of the unknown.
Kornell’s two donkeys go by the names of Hal and Martha. As brother and sister, they enjoy a good game of one-upmanship. In this case, it’s a relentless, barely bearable, simmering war. They live in a gloriously bucolic setting, as evocative as a woodblock print burnished with the light of sunset, but their competition carries on, even while on a picnic. On a walk home, they take a new route and encounter many new circumstances. Martha races to try the berries first. Yuck! Hal climbs through the hollow log before Martha can and emerges coated in cobwebs for his efforts. Martha jumps on the log bridge spanning a stream and goes for an unexpected swim, in her clothes, when it breaks. There’s nothing quite like learning a lesson the hard way, not to mention that the air is perfumed by their silence as the lesson seeps in. Kornell can’t be said to have exactly a light touch—the message is as subtle as the taste of cobwebs—but if it teaches just one reader not to need to always go one better, it’s brought peace to one small sliver of Earth.
As soothing on the eyes as it is, potentially, on the nerves. (Picture book. 4-8)