I KNOW THE MOON

A fox, a moth, an owl, a mouse, and a frog—night creatures all—fight with each other over their definitions of the moon. The fox says it’s “a rabbit, swift and large and glowing;” the moth that it’s a big cocoon “where moths of legend are born;” the owl that it’s “a window in a midnight room;” the mouse that it’s “a seed in endless bloom;” and the frog that it’s “a lily pad for froggy croons.” To settle their quarrel, they visit the Man of Science, who lives “alone with his thoughts in a tower high enough to almost touch the moon.” The Man of Science reads to them from a “squarish book,” but the animals do not find the moon in its inky pages, and return sadly home, each holding to his or her own definition. The fox speaks for all of them when he says, “The Man says it’s made of letters—I know it’s more the spaces in between.” The concepts and vocabulary in this sometimes disconcertingly rhyming text are overly abstract, complex, and metaphorical for the audience of three- to seven-year-olds for whom the book and its illustrations are targeted, although there may somewhere be a five-year-old with a philosophical bent to whom the book will appeal. The illustrations, too, convey mixed messages with their combination of bold and sophisticated colors and patterns and their comically caricatured animals. The white words on black backgrounds are placed to the far left or right of each opening, leaving no room for them to be spaced in lines that reflect their rhythmic patterns. Well-intentioned text—but it misses its mark. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23425-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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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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