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

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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