A valuable ecological message, deftly delivered. Incandescent.

PANDORA

A gentle fox finds a friend in a desolate world.

Pandora the fox, who wears a simple blue dress, stands resolutely in the middle of a heaping pile of trash: mattress, bird cage, bicycle wheel, old Victrola, etc. She lives alone “in a land of broken things.” The landscape has a sepia tint, but there are pops of color inside Pandora’s home, where she repairs found articles. One day, outside her window, a bird falls from the sky. It’s broken too, but Pandora knows how to fix it. She makes it snug in a box full of shavings and watches over it. As the days go by, the bird grows stronger. He hops, then flies short distances, always returning to Pandora and his box at night. Until one day he doesn’t, and all that’s left is his nest inside the box. Pandora fears her heart will break. But day by day, from the nest of twigs, trees and flowers and leaves grow, covering the landscape. One morning, Pandora awakens to the sound of bird song and sees a land of green things. And guess who comes back? Turnbull’s beautiful pictures are worth the proverbial thousand words; she wisely keeps the text to a minimum. Her soft, spacious drawings judiciously vary perspective and composition to great effect. Pandora alone in her bed in the upper left of a double-page spread with the empty box in the bottom right says everything.

A valuable ecological message, deftly delivered. Incandescent. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-94733-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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