A sweet, simple friendship story buoyed by sophisticated art.

A PERFECT DAY

A sea gull finds a flock in an unlikely crustacean.

While basking in the sun on a rock in the middle of the ocean, a sea gull remarks, “Blue sky, gentle breeze! Warm sun, cool feet! It’s a perfect day.” That is, until a nitpicky crab crawls onto the rock and negates the sea gull’s optimism. According to the crab, the day is not perfect, as the sky has a cloud in it (yes, just one). The sea gull counters that the cloud is “pretty.” But the crab persists with the negativity, next noting the “smelly old boat” in the distance and the barnacles on the slippery rock. “Fine!” the sea gull says, and flies off “to find a better rock”—one without crabs. But when both the old and the new rock—in reality, two whales’ heads—rise up out of the ocean, the sea gull’s “perfect day” completely sinks. Or does it? Brannen’s spare dialogue, accompanied by three gorgeous and completely wordless double-page spreads, makes for lovely opportunities to talk with young readers about the story. The rich watercolor art employs multiple techniques to create textural contrast. The animal figures are simply drawn and outlined with thick, black lines, but their expressive gestures and faces bring them to life. That the sea gull would choose to befriend rather than just eat the annoying crab adds a layer to the story—and indeed the sea gull’s bright-eyed personality.

A sweet, simple friendship story buoyed by sophisticated art. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984-81284-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Hee haw.

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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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