Fans of Tea with Oliver (2017) will delight in watching this cat-and-mouse friendship grow, and newcomers will happily enter...

PICNIC WITH OLIVER

Best friends Philbert (a wee mouse) and Oliver (a moon-faced orange-and-white cat) plan an elaborate picnic, but everyone knows the best-laid plans of mice and kittens often go awry.

The two gleefully load up a rolling cart with everything they might need (teacups, a tiered sandwich platter, pillows, cookies, a stuffed bear, a book, a blanket, a paper sailboat, an umbrella) and set up camp by a pond—a “perfect spot.” The sweetness of Philbert and Oliver’s interspecies friendship, their shared giddiness, and that inevitable, impending thunderclap all swirl inside readers, making their hearts swell and their chests tighten as they wait for the first raindrop to fall. Pale watercolor-and-ink illustrations describe a soft world, one with assured circular shapes everywhere (the trees’ greenery, Oliver’s head, spots, and ears, an umbrella, a bagel, cookies, and the speech bubbles). These recurring curves and Song’s pleasantly mellow mint-, orange-, and strawberry-sherbet palette create pillowy, soft illustrations. Readers therefore gasp when they arrive at a jarring double-page spread showing driving rain, Philbert’s angular face pitching over the helm of his pointy, paper boat, and the pond’s monstrous, jagged waves. Thankfully, a rescue is just one best friend and a makeshift umbrella-boat away.

Fans of Tea with Oliver (2017) will delight in watching this cat-and-mouse friendship grow, and newcomers will happily enter their amiable world of reciprocity. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-242950-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Chilling in the best ways.

CREEPY CRAYON!

From the Creepy Tales! series

When a young rabbit who’s struggling in school finds a helpful crayon, everything is suddenly perfect—until it isn’t.

Jasper is flunking everything except art and is desperate for help when he finds the crayon. “Purple. Pointy…perfect”—and alive. When Jasper watches TV instead of studying, he misspells every word on his spelling test, but the crayon seems to know the answers, and when he uses the crayon to write, he can spell them all. When he faces a math quiz after skipping his homework, the crayon aces it for him. Jasper is only a little creeped out until the crayon changes his art—the one area where Jasper excels—into something better. As guilt-ridden Jasper receives accolade after accolade for grades and work that aren’t his, the crayon becomes more and more possessive of Jasper’s attention and affection, and it is only when Jasper cannot take it anymore that he discovers just what he’s gotten himself into. Reynolds’ text might as well be a Rod Serling monologue for its perfectly paced foreboding and unsettling tension, both gentled by lightly ominous humor. Brown goes all in to match with a grayscale palette for everything but the purple crayon—a callback to black-and-white sci-fi thrillers as much as a visual cue for nascent horror readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Chilling in the best ways. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6588-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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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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