Dieckmann beautifully weaves together some of today’s most difficult themes into a deceptively simple tale.

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LEAF

A lost polar bear strikes fear into the woodland animals until his extraordinary efforts to return home bring help, hope, and understanding.

A lone figure, balanced on a miniscule shard of ice, floats toward land under a moonlit sky. It covers itself in leaves and finds shelter in an old, abandoned cave, while the native animals watch and discuss, scared of the unknown. Every day they gossip, naming him Leaf, but none talk to the mysterious creature until Leaf attempts to fly home. The crows rescue him, and the animals promise to tell Leaf’s story, so no polar bear will “ever get lost again.” The illustrations, done in pencil, pen, wash, and paint with collage, are infused with a European folk-art aesthetic. Dieckmann plays with scale and proportion for dramatic and psychological effect. Grand spreads contrasting the mountains and sea offer a wide, dreamlike sensibility, whereas the portrait of Leaf in his cave brings forth the bear’s emotional isolation. Skilled linework provides depth and detailed information; and the artist’s appealing patterning acts almost like hieroglyphs, with the green plants and vibrant flowers indicating a foreign world to the bear, compared to the blue environment of his home. A timely story, one that yields multiple interpretations and meanings, from the “othering” of unfamiliar populations and those seeking refuge from a changing world to the impacts of climate change.

Dieckmann beautifully weaves together some of today’s most difficult themes into a deceptively simple tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-911171-31-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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