The picture book as a whole isn’t quite all there, but the pictures are sublime.

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THE BEAR WHO WASN'T THERE

AND THE FABULOUS FOREST

A text-heavy picture book presents an existential quandary…

…but it can’t seem to decide whether or not it would really rather be a nonsensical one. As this book was originally published in German, perhaps something was lost in (the uncredited) translation? The titular Bear who wasn’t there suddenly is there after an Itch scratches itself on a tree and becomes a bear. The Bear then discovers a pocket in its fur and a list of clues below the question “ARE YOU ME?” and ventures off to see if it is indeed “A VERY NICE BEAR…A HAPPY BEAR…VERY HANDSOME TOO.” Encounters with various animals in the Fabulous Forest eventually lead the Bear to conclude that he is both very nice and happy, but he's still not sure about the handsome part. Eventually he ends up at a house with a sign on the door reading “HOME OF THE BEAR WHO WASN’T THERE (please enter quietly, he may be asleep).” Once inside, the Bear sees his reflection in the mirror and decides that, yes, he is handsome too. Throughout, Erlbruch’s playful, distinctive illustrations outshine the text and offer ample visual interest, which may help readers sustain interest despite the rambling and often confusing text.

The picture book as a whole isn’t quite all there, but the pictures are sublime. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61775-490-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Black Sheep/Akashic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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