A cozy filter through which to imagine growing up.

READ REVIEW

THE HUNDRED-YEAR BARN

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 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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