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THE HUNDRED-YEAR BARN

A cozy filter through which to imagine growing up.

Known for animating America’s past for young readers, MacLachlan here imagines a community barn-raising from a century ago.

The setting is simply “a meadow,” leaving room for Pak’s atmospheric mixed-media and digital compositions to fill in physical and emotional elements. Burnt sienna is the predominant color of the landscape; it surrounds the minimalist figures like a textured veil, emphasizing their ties to the Earth. The narrator, 5 years old at the start, is identified by a red cap and dark hair. He holds the ladder while wooden frames are bolted to beams, plays with neighbors in the stream, and enjoys the celebratory picnic and the photograph that records the gathering. Characters have various skin tones—whether from ethnicity or sun, it is hard to say—but the protagonist and his family present white. This quiet tale captures the rhythm of rural life throughout seasons—and then over generations—with the solid structure at the center of daily chores, fond interactions with animals, sleepovers with cousins, and weddings. The moments of highest drama involve a wedding ring lost by the protagonist’s father during construction and recovered in a barn owl’s nest when the son has become the farmer. MacLachlan weaves in an abundance of details that will appeal to children with no firsthand experience with farming: “Once, a lamb named Baby pushed me over and licked my face with his little tongue.”

A cozy filter through which to imagine growing up. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268773-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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