A sweet story about falling in love with reading.

RECTANGLE TIME

Told from the point of view of the pet cat, this story shows a reading family and the incremental ways in which a child learns to love books.

A toddler-age boy and his father, who both have beige skin and brown hair, pick out a book every night to read before bed, and the cat thrills to know it’s “Rectangle Time.” That means a “furry nuzzle” against the corners of the book as the father reads The Snowy Day aloud to his child. Time passes with the page turns, marked in the narrative by the cat’s surprise to see the boy, now a bit older, reading an Encyclopedia Brown book on his own and, after that, the even older lad reading rectangles that are “awfully small” (squinting readers will see it’s The Hobbit). The cat’s self-centered but affectionate voice is entertaining as he remarks that the boy is so engaged in reading that he momentarily dismisses his pet. The story, with its warmly colored watercolor illustrations and expressive feline, feels like a primer for adults on how to get their kids to fall in love with books: The house is filled with them; the (apparently single) dad models reading; and he regularly read aloud to the boy before his son could do so himself. (The author, currently the New York Times Book Review editor, co-authored an actual primer, How To Raise a Reader, 2019, with María Russo, that outlet’s former children’s-books editor.) It’s not a story with a climax or falling action, but the resolution—in the end, the cat merely decides that sleeping on the boy’s face will do—will still satisfy readers, especially book and cat lovers everywhere. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A sweet story about falling in love with reading. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11511-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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