Though the factual information about Grant Wood is scanty, this fanciful story represents the power of friendship and the...

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GRANT AND TILLIE GO WALKING

Loosely based on the life of Grant Wood, this is the story of the artist’s search for inspiration and his discovery that home—and a cow named Tillie—was all he needed to be happy.

Soft watercolors beautifully depict the rolling hillsides of rural Iowa, where Tillie is so content to live on a farm with her friend Grant that “at milking time, Tillie gave Grant gallons of frothy goodness.” He wants to be an artist, though, dreaming of being taken as seriously as French painters. Leaving Tillie behind, Grant travels to Paris in 1920. Smith’s illustrations nicely capture the Parisian art scene with broad strokes and open spaces, spaces that Wood occupies uneasily, with a beret and goatee that look pasted-on, an outsider who realizes that he needs to go home to paint what he loves. Meanwhile, a forlorn Tillie feels abandoned by her friend and walking companion, wasting away until they’re reunited. The book’s typeface is oddly small for the expansive illustrations and storyline, and it’s sometimes hard to read against the backdrop. A child might wonder why the artist’s eyes are invisible behind his eyeglasses, unlike the bespectacled man in Wood’s famous American Gothic, painted at the end of the story.

Though the factual information about Grant Wood is scanty, this fanciful story represents the power of friendship and the role of the familiar in the creative process.   (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-446-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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