A charming tale of camaraderie and friendship.


A cat and a gargoyle guard their home and become pals in this illustrated children’s book.

A skittish white cat named Spooky roams the grounds of her new home. She is intrigued by Eben, the gargoyle hovering by the gates out front. But when she approaches the statue, Eben tells her to leave because he works best guarding the house alone. Still, Spooky continues to visit him. Although Eben mostly ignores her, the little cat feels secure next to him as it enables her to be “close enough to watch the outside world from the safety of the grounds.” After she is chased by a dog, Spooky is appreciative when Eben comes to her rescue. Though he brushes her off and claims he was just doing his job, Eben becomes less gruff over time. He even offers Spooky tips to boost her self-confidence (“The trick is to LOOK confident, even if you’re scared”). One day, a large dog tries to play with Eben, nearly knocking him over. Spooky scares the pooch away. Eben is relieved and thankful for his feline friend’s action. Although the gargoyle is shown as a stone statue in the pictures, he is depicted as a talking creature in Traver’s story. Still, the overall tale about two unlikely friends who help each other is effective, relatable, and will appeal to young readers. The striking images by debut illustrator Dahlenburg mostly mirror the text. They show the sweet-looking cat juxtaposed with darker scenery like shadowy hallways and elements such as brick, gates, and greenery.

A charming tale of camaraderie and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-56697-9

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Thousand Acre Woods Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2020

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among


Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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