This lighthearted tale features some less-than-well-integrated elements.

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WHAT'S THAT NOISE?

A rumbling noise puzzles animals living in the Arctic in this picture book.

Magnus, a ringed seal, awakens from a “very deep sleep” to hear a “long, low rumbling sound.” After ruling out the wind, the sea, and an iceberg, he goes to find a friend with better ears to ask. Hare, with its long ears, doesn’t know either, so they ask Owl, and then Fox, Polar Bear, and Walrus. In this way, readers are introduced to some of the animals living in the Arctic. Author/illustrator Howarth’s narrative is lighthearted and mildly humorous, but it is also predictable and relies heavily on the rule of three, making it textually most suitable for readers on the younger end of the range. Lovely illustrations combine pastel colors and textured mottling with plenty of white space to conjure up a beautiful and accurate Arctic landscape in all its pristine glory (with the exception of the puzzling inclusion of two small sea horses in the double-page illustration of the underwater Arctic ocean). The cover and one inside illustration, showing pinky-red shrimp dangling comically from the seal’s jaws, may also give pause to readers who don’t find eating meat particularly humorous. Backmatter relays more information about each animal, including a dim prognosis due to the melting ice of our changing climate. This late introduction of doom in a lightly humorous story comes without preparation and leaves a dampening feeling.

This lighthearted tale features some less-than-well-integrated elements. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1352-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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