A warm, quiet ode to imagination.



Siblings dream up extraordinary sights while walking their dog.

When Mom asks Maisie to walk their dog, Tinker, sibling Jonah—who uses a manual wheelchair and wears leg braces—asks to come along. So, the text rhythmically relates, “dog pulling, / Maisie pushing, / they set off.” But it’s not long before the rambunctious pup runs off after a cat. As Maisie wrangles Tinker, Jonah points out some unexpected sights. A tree becomes a “tree of cats” as feline faces take shape in the leaves; puffy orange flowers become a “popsicle garden.” The typeface jangles with a “bong, bong, bong” as Jonah pulls the dangling leaves of a “bell machine” tree, and it fades as they enter an “echo-y-y-y-y-y” tunnel of hanging laundry. The frazzled Maisie slowly joins in Jonah’s play, pointing out dinosaur-shaped clouds walking on “stilts” made of pointy trees. As they return to their starting point, Jonah wonders what Tinker sees. As Jonah blows on a just-picked bouquet, Maisie replies, “Oh, the goldfish… / …the goldfish snowing,” and they laugh beneath an orange flurry of fish and flower petals. Reality and imagination subtly intertwine in Barton’s bright, soft-edged illustrations. The children’s smiling faces are inviting, and Tinker’s mischievous antics add a humorous note. Though simple, the plot feels comfortably lived in; Maisie and Jonah’s interactions are delightfully ordinary, and refreshingly, Jonah’s disability requires no explanation. Maisie and Jonah present White. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45.5% of actual size.)

A warm, quiet ode to imagination. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4814-9200-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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


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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