A persistently rose-colored narrative about family togetherness is buoyed by homey, cozy, copiously detailed illustrations.

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WHEN THE MICE FAMILY COMES TO VISIT

An anthropomorphic mouse family hosts a family reunion in this picture book translated from Chinese.

Melvin, a young mouse, is excited for the upcoming Mice Festival, an annual family reunion. His family will be hosting it this year, and the preparations are nonstop. While author Qin details the activities, illustrator Xu delivers illustrations filled to their edges with copious homey details, somewhat reminiscent of Tasha Tudor’s style. Full-page illustrations, double-page spreads, spot illustrations, and one impressive three-page foldout give the story a visual animation. If only the same could be said for the narrative. Its undemanding arc relates the arrival of the relatives and their joy and delight in one another, with a small blip of tension when Uncle Dom is tardy; but all ends well—and, if possible, even cozier. Gender stereotypes are strictly adhered to: The aunties and Melvin’s mother prepare all the food; the boys tussle; the girls play dress-up. The theme of unselfish, loving family togetherness with nary a quibble is delivered with a sentimental perseverance that may not resonate with Western readers. An author’s note at the end reads peculiarly, essentially an explanatory synopsis of the story reiterating the value of family and love. An illustrator’s note following is also eccentric, conveying a fragmented homage to imagination, bravery, and, yes, love.

A persistently rose-colored narrative about family togetherness is buoyed by homey, cozy, copiously detailed illustrations. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-089-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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