Imaginative and tender, with a happy, hopeful conclusion.


Tamlin’s wanderlust leads him to many new places and adventures.

Tamlin is a horse living an idyllic life in a beautiful grassy field where he plays all day with his human best friend, Ruby. When a bird tells him that there is more to the world, he becomes so curious that he leaves to see for himself. At first each new place seems to be “the best place in the world.” A tropical island finds him basking on sandy beaches and swimming among tropical fish. But Tamlin is lonely there and wants to explore further. In a “huge city” (unnamed but obviously New York City), there are towering buildings and hurrying, diverse, sophisticated people who never notice him. He has adventures in deserts, mountains, and vast oceans, but in the end he realizes that he wants to go home to Ruby. Simple, spare language moves the tale and expresses Tamlin’s yearnings, delights, and regrets, all narrowly avoiding cliché or self-pity. The brightly hued illustrations in varying sizes add more depth and several surprises to the proceedings. Tamlin’s voyage is by sea as a passenger on a cruise ship, and the sense of place in his visits is spot-on. Both Tamlin’s and Ruby’s moods are seen in their body language and expressions, and their reunion is pure joy. If a new adventure occurs, Tamlin knows that Ruby will be with him. Ruby’s complexion is pale, and Tamlin is a gray Appaloosa.

Imaginative and tender, with a happy, hopeful conclusion. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-76036-084-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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. 29, 2018

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Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities.


If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one.

In the first of five chapters, Klassen places his now-familiar turtle and armadillo (wearing bowler hats) on a minimalist gray/green landscape with one flower and—on the facing page—one plant. Personalities are revealed through occasional, slow movement across the gutter together with color-coded dialogue that feels as if it is being invented in the moment, sans script. Turtle is inflexible, not wanting to relocate, even when Armadillo moves farther away after a bad feeling about the space. It is only when Snake (sporting a beret) appears near the mammal that Turtle joins them—just in time: A huge asteroid falls on the vacated spot. Readers have watched it coming, suspense effectively building as they turn the pages. In subsequent episodes, Armadillo attempts to be helpful; miscommunication abounds; and Turtle is stubborn, proud, and jealous of the unspeaking snake, now near the rock: “I see how it is. Just enough room for two.” Turtle playing the martyr: “Maybe I will never come back.” As daylight turns into a striking, rose-tinged sunset and then a starlit evening, a life-zapping extraterrestrial (created previously in Armadillo’s futuristic forest fantasy) stalks Turtle. At the last minute, a second asteroid annihilates the creature. Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder.

Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1562-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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