THE SINGING HAT

Some moments in a life pass by strangely, and such is the case with Colin Jenkins in Riddle's (The Great Escape from City Zoo, 1999) decidedly peculiar picture book. Colin is your average man on the street. One day he grabs a catnap under a tree in the park and a bird builds its nest on his head. Colin, a fatalist and perhaps a bit of a Milquetoast, accepts his lot, then disarms readers with his honorable reasoning: He didn't wish to disturb the bird "at such a fragile and important time of life," nor was it "wise to interfere with nature." Now Colin becomes the object of scorn and ridicule by some, and admiration from others, while his daughter remains steadfast by his side. He loses some friends, his job, and his home. People just don't understand a man with a bird on his head. When things are at their bleakest, Colin learns from an ornithologist that the birds (the egg having hatched) on his head are "possibly the rarest in the world." Suddenly, they take flight and Colin "felt a near avalanche of relief." At home he puts the empty nest on a table by a window and "from time to time he would find the most beautiful and improbable things in the nest." The artwork has a slightly retro look with bits of collage and fine linework, the figures often set in front of a lightly sketched-in city or a solid-white background as if to add importance. A lovely book and an equally lovely tale full of decency and graciousness, this is worthy of reflection in a feckless world. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 19, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-36934-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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