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WE LIGHT UP THE SKY WITH MUSIC!

Inspiring.

Music makes a powerful statement.

Old Bear sits indoors on a gloomy day. A small bear—a grandchild?—coaxes him into taking a walk. When Little Bear takes his hand, he agrees, reluctantly. It’s windy and chilly, and Old Bear wants to return home, but Little Bear urges him on. Suddenly, they hear a sound. Investigating, they discover among some trash a battered saxophone: “The wind must have brought it to life,” says Little Bear. They take it home and repair and polish it. Little Bear’s attempts to play the instrument fail. When Old Bear tries, with Little Bear’s encouragement, he initially produces hearty squawks, but gradually, “the noises turn into notes…deep and rich and round.” Thereafter, Old Bear’s music lights up the sky; friends visit to listen. Old Bear is now happier and deeply grateful to Little Bear. The two visit the park daily, where Old Bear performs with his group, and later, Old Bear gives Little Bear a most appropriate birthday gift. This charming, uplifting story, narrated in first-person present tense by Little Bear, isn’t only about music’s transformative power. It’s also about how children can help brighten the outlooks of older adults—relatives or otherwise—and give their lives meaningful purpose. The pen and pencil illustrations, with colors added digitally, are cozy and delightful; onomatopoeic “musical” words are incorporated playfully throughout the text.

Inspiring. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781682636077

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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