A thoughtful tale for engineers young and old.

HOUSE MOUSE

A story about what isn’t yet there…until it’s imagined by an industrious mouse!

It begins with a house, or perhaps with a warm, welcoming flame, or perhaps with the intrepid journey of a mouse who travels over a hill, across a river, and into an asparagus patch to find a home. But there isn’t a home…yet. First the mouse builds a stove around the flame, “to mark the spot where the chilliness wasn’t.” After an escape from a fox, the mouse builds a floor, marking a space “where the fox wouldn’t go.” A storm leads to a roof, and soon mouse has her house. A door is built, and unexpected guests fill the house with warm vegetable soup and friendship. Gentle, straightforward text and onomatopoeia recount the mouse’s efforts to envision what could be before it is there, learning from experience and creating the bones of a home in the empty space of the asparagus patch. Geometric artwork uses lines in all kinds of forms to evoke the stability of home and the uncertainty of travel; the mouse and her friends are simply yet effectively portrayed, conveying a childlike yet classic quality to the illustrations. A primarily earth-toned palette is peppered with tiny, colorful details throughout. The concentric halos around a candle on a deep blue spread are particularly poignant. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A thoughtful tale for engineers young and old. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-286619-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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