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

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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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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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