A rib-tickling pleaser.

READ REVIEW

HOOT OWL, MASTER OF DISGUISE

A confident owl employs ace hunting skills—sort of—to fill his tummy.

Hoot Owl’s hungry, but he isn’t worried, because he’s an excellent predator. His first quarry’s a “tasty rabbit,” wide-eyed and innocent. Hoot Owl has a special technique, which becomes a refrain: “Everyone knows owls are wise. But as well as being wise, I am a master of disguise.” He dresses up as a carrot and sets himself down. The bunny smiles in the carrot’s direction and hops away. Undeterred, Hoot Owl restarts the pattern, targeting a bespectacled lamb and a pigeon, to no avail. Hoot Owl talks a fierce and uproarious game—“I swoop through the bleak blackness like a wolf in the air”; “The lamb looks cuddly, but soon I will be eating it”—but he never actually attacks anything. He merely camouflages himself—but not really—and waits. Jullien’s bold, black outlines, expressive animal eyes and positioning (Hoot Owl is frequently sideways) hilariously complement Taylor’s text, which reveals the predator as both melodramatic (“The shadowy night stretches away forever, as black as burnt toast”) and unflustered. Rich, matte colors and a flattish, zoomed-in perspective of the nighttime scenes keep the vibe immediate and nonthreatening. Never fear: Hoot Owl’s “deadly-dangerous beak” eventually chomps on something that even squeamish readers will approve of.

A rib-tickling pleaser. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7578-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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