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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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