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

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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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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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