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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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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