A well-meaning story that unfortunately lacks the originality, creativity and spirit of its subject.

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WHEN EMILY CARR MET WOO

A picture book offers glimpses of the life of the iconic Canadian artist Emily Carr.

Although Emily Carr deserves to be as ubiquitously known in the United States as she is in Canada, this book is probably not going to help that happen. Any appeal it may have relies on prior knowledge readers might have of Carr’s life; the brief biography on the last page is not enough. To readers unfamiliar with Carr’s art and writing, it becomes only the story of an eccentric old woman who occasionally paints, makes bowls, hooks rugs and has a houseful of animals, including a monkey that gets into mischief. As much as the narrative fragments try to center around Carr’s relationship with her pet monkey, Woo, they do not coalesce into a cohesive story, needing far more background information than presented to create resonance. The illustrations are another casualty of this assumption of prior knowledge. But in this case, the misjudgment is in assuming that readers need to know what Carr looked like. Instead of imbuing his illustrations with vitality and originality, Griffiths has limited them to a pseudo-realism that, while succeeding in capturing a comic-book–type likeness of the real Carr, ultimately comes across as staid and stilted.

A well-meaning story that unfortunately lacks the originality, creativity and spirit of its subject. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-927485-40-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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