Immensely charming and surprisingly moving, this satisfying adventure story honors nature, freedom, and the ringing bells...

THE GREAT CHICKEN ESCAPE

Just as the rooster crows and the nun comes to collect their eggs, four chickens fly the coop.

Masterful black-and-white, cut-paper illustrations make the chickens’ narrow escape from a small monastery vivid and their meanderings through an Alaskan forest and coastline magical. An autobiographical note in the frontmatter tell readers this “is a true story, or as close to the truth as [McClure] could ascertain from the chickens themselves, "from her time with “a small group of monastics on Spruce Island, Alaska.” She commemorates the hens’ antics in four sections, whose block-lettered headings make up the book’s only text: “GOOD MORNING, CHICKENS”; “CHICKENS RUN”; “CHICKENS ROAM”; and “CHICKENS GO HOME.” The birds bob as they bolt, their spindly legs and curled feet stretching to cover ground as the nun advances in hot pursuit. Eventually she grabs one and retreats, presumably thinking the remaining three will do what chickens do: come home to roost. Once out of blackberry brambles, however, they (one white, two black chickens) mosey through evergreens and out to a kelp-strewn beach. Assured pictures, wordless, unhurried, expansive in their double-page–spread format, perfectly capture the hush of a grove and the salty, clarifying quality of ocean air.

Immensely charming and surprisingly moving, this satisfying adventure story honors nature, freedom, and the ringing bells inside us that steer us home. (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944903-22-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers.

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ITTY-BITTY KITTY-CORN

Is Kitty only a kitten? Or might she be a noble unicorn?

Inspired by the unicorn on her poster, Kitty crafts a perfect horn and admires herself in the mirror. She feels “unicorn-y.” Her friends disagree. “ ‘You’re not a unicorn, putty-pie,’ says Parakeet. / ‘You’re curled up like a cat, fluffy-fry,’ says Gecko.” So Kitty uncurls to prance and gallop, but her detractors point out her tiny tail. With some effort she plumps it up. They tell her she will never be a unicorn because she meows like a cat; this, of course, prompts her to let out a loud “NEIGH!” Parakeet and Gecko are having none of it, each time varying their mild name-calling. As the sun dips low, Kitty’s sure her long shadow looks like a unicorn’s—until a real unicorn clops into view. Gecko and Parakeet are impressed, and Kitty feels insignificant. But this unicorn has a secret…a pair of fluffy, pink kitty ears the same pink as Kitty’s. They can be kitty-corns together, best friends. Unicorn fans will definitely identify with Hale’s protagonist and respond well to Pham’s bright cartoons, laid out as spot illustrations that pop against the mostly all-white backgrounds. The way Kitty’s friends dismissively poke fun with their name-calling may give some readers pause, but the be-true-to-the-inner-you message and the expressive characterizations add appeal. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.2% of actual size.)

Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5091-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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