Cleverly bringing the narrative full circle, Stead has crafted a caring community where sadness is mitigated by quiet...

VERNON IS ON HIS WAY

SMALL STORIES

The compassionate toad who stole readers’ hearts in A Home for Bird (2012) now appears in a long-form picture book with three chapters.

In “Waiting,” the amphibian sits atop a snail shell, a flower his only companion. An undecorated white background conveys the empty boredom surrounding this activity—a sentiment to which children will relate. Unexpectedly, the snail eventually emerges and carries Vernon into the next story. His forest world, executed in gouache, crayon, pastel, and charcoal, feels familiar. The pages are framed with loose green loops of vegetation and chalky blue strokes of sky. Stead has a gift for expressing the emotions and dialogue that accompany the uncertainties of childhood—those anxious, wanting-to-be-right-but-not-quite-knowing-the-rules moments. In “Fishing,” Skunk and Porcupine join their friend, and although Porcupine feels inadequate because he doesn’t know how to fish, in reality none of them do. At the climax, lit by a sunset, the trio invents their own version of the sport; listeners feel a combination of in-the-know pride—and relief. “Gardening” finds Vernon missing Bird: “But sometimes…my memories are not so easy to remember.” Working, resting, seeking out things Bird loved, and thoughtful friends are factors in his renewal.

Cleverly bringing the narrative full circle, Stead has crafted a caring community where sadness is mitigated by quiet kindnesses and an unhurried joy in nature—a fruitful model. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-655-0

Page Count: 69

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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