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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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