Emotionally charged and eloquently rendered in words and art, this picture book is worth owning and cherishing.

TOGETHER WE GROW

In times of need, uneasy alliances align. Enemies become partners, if only for a little while.

This sweet picture book, told in rhyming couplets, pairs Vaught’s lean, soothing text with Murphy’s exquisite illustrations. Vaught is a practicing neuropsychologist and a lover of animals. Both traits play well in this tale that imagines a dark and stormy night in which its barnyard beasts must decide whether to shelter outsiders. A family of foxes is caught out in the storm, and the mother is desperate to protect her kits. Understandably, the farm animals, normally prey for the fox, are not eager to share the warmth of their barn. However, the generous actions of the tiniest among them, a yellow duckling, allow the other creatures to see that in this time of crisis, even foxes need refuge. Murphy creates stunning images of deep blue stormy skies, and cows’, pigs’, chicken’s, and other animals’ emotion-filled eyes. Scenes that shift between the cold, wet out-of-doors and the cozy, well-lit interior emphasize the foxes’ predicament. Vaught’s clipped, staccato couplets speed the pacing along, occasionally halting so readers can take in Murphy’s well-timed wordless spreads. One, in which mother fox and duckling commune silently, muzzle to bill, will have readers lingering and pondering.

Emotionally charged and eloquently rendered in words and art, this picture book is worth owning and cherishing. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0586-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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