This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New...

LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY

From the Little Elliot series

The big city is clearly New York, but it’s a grayed and sepia city sometime in the late 1940s, judging from the cars and clothing.

Elliot is a small, polka-dot elephant who loves his city even though it is hard for him to catch a cab or even open a door. (And he does the dishes by sitting in the sink with them.) He’s too little to be seen when he tries to buy his favorite treat, a cupcake, and that makes him sad. But he sees a tiny, very hungry mouse trying desperately to scale a trash bin for scraps. He manages to help get Mouse something to eat, and lo! He feels “like the tallest elephant in the world!” With Mouse’s help, the next day he gets that cupcake. The last image peers through Elliot’s window to find him and Mouse sharing it. The Flatiron Building, brownstone steps and the Empire State Building are clearly recognizable, giving the story Big Apple authenticity. The art has its own meticulous beauty, but the story is more saccharine than sweet—rather like too much frosting on a cupcake. The endpapers are a lush repetitive pattern of variegated cupcakes, with cameos by Elliot and Mouse.

This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New York City images in their dark, soft palette. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9825-9

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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