A lovely posthumous gift that will undoubtedly draw readers into the prolific author’s body of work.

WHO WILL BELL THE CAT?

The mice in the barn have a cat problem and must rely on their own wits to solve it.

After taking pity on a poor starving tabby cat named Marmalade, the barn mice learn that no good deed goes unpunished when she becomes a tyrant, terrorizing the very creatures who nursed her back to health. When life becomes intolerable, the mice craft a collar with a bell to warn them of Marmalade’s approach, but who will take on the perilous duty of belling the cat? In this book, published posthumously, the beloved, multiaward-winning McKissack leaves readers one more insightful tale that teaches the value of self-reliance and gently cautions against believing preconceived notions. Reminiscent of Margery Sharpe’s The Rescuers, the classed society of mice enlists aid from the dreaded rats and even a barn bird before they are forced to rely on a most unexpected ally. Cyr, in his debut picture book, creates an atmospheric and precarious landscape through brilliant use of shadow and color. Marmalade’s eyes, a lugubrious shade of yellow, convey the full extent of her villainy, while the scale of the mice in the shadowy barn reinforces the danger that they are in. A black nuclear family is seamlessly integrated in the conclusion.

A lovely posthumous gift that will undoubtedly draw readers into the prolific author’s body of work. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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