Laced with humor and, despite its minimalistic air, decipherable in more ways than one.

BEAR NEEDS HELP

Even apex predators need help with their shoes sometimes.

Brannen plays a sly joke with readers’ expectations. Wandering over broad, flat Arctic scenes, a polar bear in four red sneakers, one untied, gingerly approaches in turn a herd of seals, a drove of Arctic hares, and a colony of lemmings. Understandably, all flee in panic before the bear can get out much more than “Excuse me….” On the other hand, the situation is evidently familiar to two ptarmigans who waddle up. “Shoelaces again?” “Yup.” The birds bend down—but rather than retie the loose shoe, they untie the other three. Off gambols the barefoot bear: “Thank you!” “He really needs to learn to do that himself,” remarks one. The author tells the tale in dialogue so spare that several spreads remain wordless, brushing a sometimes-deceptive sense of serenity over events by filling skies, seas, ice fields, and the big, simply drawn animal figures with subtle flushes of transparent color. Expressions are comically anthropomorphic throughout. Leaving audiences the option to read the story as metaphorical or as just a comically surreal episode, she not only makes no effort to explain the shoes, but actually trots in a likewise-shod second bear at the end. (Go figure: Maybe there was a sale.)

Laced with humor and, despite its minimalistic air, decipherable in more ways than one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51650-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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