A lovely, nuanced collaboration.

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ZOLA'S ELEPHANT

When Zola moves into the house next door, a young girl imagines all of the reasons why a friendship between them is impossible.

Spying a giant moving box, the narrator immediately concludes that it contains Zola’s pet elephant. Smelling toast, she imagines Zola merrily feeding her pet. In contrast, Zola is shown in a room piled with drab boxes, despondently taking tea and toast with only her pet bird for company. Each brightly bedecked fantasy about Zola and her pachyderm playmate is a facet of the narrator’s cloaked fear of rejection by the newcomer. Readers are poignantly aware, through Zagarenski’s contrasting gray compositions of Zola’s actual circumstances, that she’s lonely and bored. Finally, the narrator’s lively imaginings provoke both curiosity and courage: “I like stories… / and clubhouses / and playing hide-and-seek / and taking bubble baths / with elephants.” Her own stuffed elephant under one arm, she knocks on Zola’s door, discovering that the huge crate contains—a sofa. “Okay, so maybe Zola doesn’t have an elephant. / But do you know what she does have? // A new friend.” De Sève’s well-paced telling is charmingly abetted by Zagarenski’s layered multimedia paintings. The artist’s Klee-esque colors and signature symbols—stars, crowns, houses, bees, and more—will provide fertile ground for young readers’ own imaginings. They depict both girls as pale-skinned, the narrator with fluffy red hair and Zola with straight, black hair.

A lovely, nuanced collaboration. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-88629-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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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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