Funny, respectful, and cathartic—exhilarating.


Can a scream become a creature in its own right?

Barbara’s a cat who stands upright in yellow boots and a red dress. Today she has a deep frown and a very bad mood. “It had started in the morning because of a sock problem. And at lunchtime there had been a strange pea.” The sock problem: one sock halfway onto one hind paw, another on her tail, one each held by a front paw—all different colors. The strange pea is olive colored and off-puttingly larger than her regular green peas. Ice cream falling from her cone onto the ground is the last straw, and “Barbara thr[ows] a GREAT BIG… / WOBBLER!” Few United States readers will know this British slang for tantrum—which Shireen paints like a close-up single scream—and the unfamiliar word brings extra gloriousness to the Wobbler’s manifestation as a great, red, googly-eyed creature, “gloopy and heavy, like an angry jelly.” For a while, the Wobbler keeps Barbara unhappy, forbidding offers of sympathetic chats, cuddles, and replacement ice cream from pals Otto, Martha, and Small Bob. But then—“Stinky bumhead!” Barbara and the Wobbler call each other, transitioning into giggles before the Wobbler disappears with a pop. The art is brightly colored and, though at first appearing simple, brings a clever, complex depth of emotion and expression, from fury and powerlessness to humor, gentleness, and relief. A picture glossary of bad moods closes the book with humor and empathy.

Funny, respectful, and cathartic—exhilarating. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68464-225-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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