A study in leporine whimsy with lingering poignance.

READ REVIEW

RABBIT MAGIC

A magic show turns upside down in McLaren's delightful backstage romp.

No magician's act is complete without a wand, top hat, and, of course, a white rabbit. This is certainly true for Monsieur Lapin's act, where white rabbit Houdini steals the show…literally. A natural choice for a magician's assistant, Houdini helps bring the other rabbits together and makes sure all is ready before the show: "Houdini took care of everyone and everything." Things change abruptly, however, when Houdini steps in after an onstage mishap and, with a potent flick of the wand, accidentally turns the white magician into a gray-and-white rabbit surrounded by a collapsed tuxedo. But the show must go on, and while at first Houdini flourishes in the limelight, with his wonderful and daring tricks, the excitement dwindles as Houdini sees how much the former magician misses the stage (and being human). With the help of the other rabbits, Houdini restores the magician to his human form, and they both come to realize that the spotlight is at its most magical when it is shared. McLaren hits all the right notes with this spare but exhilarating text, bringing it to rich visual life with dynamic and comically energetic illustrations. No page turn goes unrewarded, and readers of any age will rush to see the rabbits’ ironic background antics.

A study in leporine whimsy with lingering poignance. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78469-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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