Wordless, with masterful artwork and an intriguing narrative undertow, this whale’s tale will transfix.

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THE WHALE

Two tenacious preteens (one lanky, long-haired, and light-skinned, the other bespectacled, short-haired, and slightly darker-skinned) strive to get to the briny bottom of a 50-year-old local legend and prove the Great Spotted Whale swims in their town’s harbor.

Working separately, one rigging sound equipment and another mounting video cameras, the two steer dinghies into open water—and into each other! The collision damages both boats, sets tempers ablaze, but forces the industrious, determined duo to join forces on their whale hunt. A newspaper spread in the first pages provides readers with the back story; a bold headline reads, “GIANT WHALE OR GIANT HOAX?” The articles beneath (partially obscured) describe events half a century earlier, piquing readers’ interests and vaulting them into the children’s ardent endeavors. Photorealistic graphite drawings stretch across pages, bringing sea spray, wires, lenses, wooden planks, waves, ropes, and frayed fabric into penetrating focus. These extraordinary black-and-white illustrations, etched with details, crosshatches, shadows, and shading, charge the children’s expedition with a pulsing, breathless urgency. Their preternatural technical proficiencies and passion-fueled mission emerge somehow as entirely believable. More astounding is the artist’s uncanny ability to reproduce the murky transparency of rippling ocean water, a whale submerged silently just beneath.

Wordless, with masterful artwork and an intriguing narrative undertow, this whale’s tale will transfix. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7965-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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