THE CROW'S TALE

Colorful and eye-catching artwork accompanies this rhyming story of bravery and kindness.

It is winter, and seemingly never-ending snow has covered the land where the animals live. Filled with tedium and frozen to the bone, the animals decide on a plan: their bravest one should embark on a journey to bring the Sun’s warmth to provide them heat. They choose Rainbow Crow, with “radiant feathers and sweet singing voice,” to “battle through ice, wind, and snow.” The courageous crow flies toward the Sun and begs for relief; the Sun gives him a burning branch to take back to land, but its soot turns his feathers black. The crow is despondent, but the other animals convince him that his good deed is evidence that his “beauty inside is the heart of the matter.” Although a specific source is not stated, debut Scottish author/illustrator Howarth tells readers that this is a “tale that has been passed down through generations of Lenni Lenape Indians, mostly orally.” The rhyming text is mostly just serviceable; the book’s forte is the outstanding multimedia illustrations that combine lithography and watercolors. Their pastel palette really brings home the warmth of the story she tells and underscores its message: that bravery and kindness are beautiful things in themselves.

A heartfelt debut. (Picture book/folk tale. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-84780-614-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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 surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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