Subtly imperfect.

READ REVIEW

JUST SO WILLOW

A youngster’s passionate efforts to keep things pristine prove challenging.

Willow, a white bear cub, prefers things prim and tidy, even going to lengths to unscramble her spaghetti. When a fresh snowfall makes her backyard into “a crisp, white sheet,” she thinks it’s “perfect.” But then an errant snowball from some kids playing nearby (other arctic animals, including a seal, puffin, and hare) threatens to turn the snow into “a lumpy, bumpy mess.” She tries yelling remonstrations to them, but they’re too loud and she’s too far away. She tries to get closer, jumping from her back porch to her swingset, fully aware of the consequences to her precious snow if she falls. Eventually, she jury-rigs a zip line to the fence, but the force takes out some boards, on which she toboggans wildly, making “a crisp, white ribbon” in the snow that is, in her eyes, “perfect.” Everyone happily joins in for some winter fun. The narrative stretches on a bit long and sometimes feels itself like wildly thrown snowballs in its effort to reach 32 pages. Nevertheless, the lesson to accept changes and messiness is a valuable one for similarly minded readers. The illustrations are animated, especially in Willow’s expressions (perhaps overly so). Pleasing highlights include many piles of soft, convex snow and coloring that’s just outside the lines.

Subtly imperfect. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2741-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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