Emotional impact wastes away with the titular tiger, but luminescent illustrations will keep readers of all ages engaged.

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THE LAST TIGER

A tiger tale.

Stunning, mixed-media illustrations in vibrant jewel tones declaim the simple story of a tiger learning the value of his freedom. Backed by straightforward text, painterly spreads of cut paper, pastel, and gouache provide the emotional heavy lifting for a familiar story that falls just short of a fable. A tiger lives fearlessly in the jungle until his hubris find him entangled in nets, and he is brought to an unnamed city behind bars. Realizing “his strength and power meant nothing anymore,” the tiger wastes away until he is small enough to slip between the bars of his cage and escape back to the jungle. The architecture and clothing of this space in the city read European, and almost all humans depicted are White, giving the book a vague but unresolved anti-colonialist edge for readers searching for a moral or metaphor. Without any real conflict or climax, author/illustrator Horáček’s uncomplicated story may underwhelm, but confident and clear mastery of color and composition keeps the pages turning, shining through every page well enough that readers will be transfixed and, for many adults, bringing William Blake’s “The Tyger” to mind unprompted.

Emotional impact wastes away with the titular tiger, but luminescent illustrations will keep readers of all ages engaged. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5552-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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