More of an artist’s sketchbook musings than a story for children.

READ REVIEW

ALL THE ANIMALS WHERE I LIVE

A careful catalog of thoughts about living in the country.

Author/illustrator Stead tells readers he used to live in the city but now lives in the country, and this picture book is a somewhat free-association observation of that life. Nostalgic reminiscences tell readers of his “Grandma Jane,” who gave him Frederick, a stuffed bear he still has, knitted a blanket decorated with chickens, and, Stead says, would be a hummingbird if she had been an animal (a handy device for the illustrations). These thinly form the connective tissue of the rest of the narrative, as Stead shares his observations of the nature outside his door. Deer eat apples (his dog, Wednesday, chases them away), cranes rattle, an eagle drops a turtle, chipmunks live in a stump, and a coyote howls. The story’s problem is not its construction—which is careful—and certainly any attention paid to the natural world is time well spent for young readers. But nostalgia is not something many picture-book readers generally engage in, nor is neutral observation, so it’s difficult to see how effectively readers will connect. The illustrations are well-drawn and well-designed, but they are executed with a loose, sketchy technique and a thin, pale palette that, paired with the narrative’s delicate style, dilute rather than strengthen the story’s overall construction.

More of an artist’s sketchbook musings than a story for children. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-656-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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