A handsome, most welcome addition to the now–sadly neglected, too-little–published literature of folk and fairy tales.

BRAVE CHICKEN LITTLE

Byrd retells the familiar tale of folly and trickery, adding some outsize bravery and a happy ending.

Off on an errand for his mother, Chicken Little gets bonked by an acorn. “The sky is falling! I must go and tell the king!” The misguided chick encounters an increasing stream of equally foolish, frightened animals, from Henny Penny to Roly and Poly Moley. The menagerie of 10 encounters Foxy Loxy, who, speaking in sly rhymes, diverts them. “Oh, please, please, let me come, too! I know the best way, I do! I do!…But first, my dear friends, we’ll stop for brunch, or maybe instead, a nice little lunch.” Foxy lures the group to his cottage, where his wife and seven hungry kits wait near a steaming, but not yet boiling, cauldron. When Foxy locks the hapless stew ingredients in the basement, it’s Chicken Little who figures out an escape and outfoxes the fox. Byrd’s charming ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict the animals in old-fashioned clothing with flounces, vests and cravats. Crosshatching and intricate lines define each leaf, butterfly, bee and flower against the lush, pastoral backdrop of woods and rolling hills. The parade of fleeing animals runs right past the king’s long shadow at sunset. Safely tucked under a quilt by his mother, Chicken Little’s too exhausted to utter a word about his errant bravery.

A handsome, most welcome addition to the now–sadly neglected, too-little–published literature of folk and fairy tales. (Picture book/folk tale. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-786169

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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