Lucid and insightful, Mathers presents death and grief as natural processes with compassion and great care.

WHEN AUNT MATTIE GOT HER WINGS

Lottie the hen must say goodbye to her beloved aunt Mattie in this gentle story about loss, grief and friendship.

When the hospital calls to say Aunt Mattie is getting weak, Lottie journeys to see her. On the long bus ride, happy memories surface—of shared picnics and jokes, and of Mattie herself, a bird full of humor and gusto, who found her calling as a nurse. But now Aunt Mattie is 99, ready to fly to the great beyond. For hours, Lottie sits with her aunt at the hospital. Descriptive details (the sound of Aunt Mattie’s breathing, the way she looks in the hospital bed, the feeling of day turning to night) are simply captured; yet in doing so, Mathers brings meaning to the clinical and unfamiliar. Here, these moments are precious and valuable. Throughout the tale, Lottie’s friend Herbie is a comforting presence. His innocent perspective allows even the very young to grasp complex concepts. As he drives Lottie to the bus station, meets her at the hospital and shares in her heartache, it’s clear his friendship and support make this difficult time bearable for Lottie. Together, the two scatter Aunt Mattie’s ashes in the ocean, so she’ll “always be near...mixed in with sand and sea.” Watercolor illustrations, painted in mostly square panels and organized like an old newspaper comic strip, are earnest and appealing.

Lucid and insightful, Mathers presents death and grief as natural processes with compassion and great care. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1044-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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