A contained action story, told more through realistic visuals than unnecessary text and adornments.


A goldfish in danger is the subject of action-packed, mouse-hatched rescue plans.

In a very quiet house, a fish (known only as “the fish”) accepts an invitation from Mouse to play. The fish splashes about as Mouse uses a straw to blow bubbles. The fun is interrupted by a trio of black cats, ready to make the fish their feast. The white and brown mouse, who turns out to be the resourceful ringleader of a small group of mice, gets an idea. “It was a wild idea. It was a bold idea. It was a brave idea. But was it a good idea?” The idea involves leading the cats into a pantry well-stocked with kibble, then collecting the fish in a teacup in order to transport it to a nearby river for release. For a story with so much action, it all feels remarkably restrained, with a minimum of small-font text and no embellishments like wild sound-effect wording or exaggerated action. Aside from the rescue itself (mice delicately balancing a fish in a teacup), the story is told with a beautifully rendered realism, every illustration using subtle shadows and muted pastels to give the tale a strong sense of place, even when the action goes outdoors. For some readers, it may be a little too muted, but it’s hard to quibble with such gorgeous visuals. Plus, the ending wraps up definitively and wordlessly without overstaying its welcome (or adding any cautions about the inadvisability or illegality of releasing goldfish into nearby waterways). It’s all very efficient. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A contained action story, told more through realistic visuals than unnecessary text and adornments. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18183-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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