GORKY RISES

This might not be the most psychologically resonant of Steig's picture books, but who can resist his unlikely transformations, flatly related marvels, and dabs of elementary humor? Here Gorky, a dumpy frog, mixes a magic potion. "Ravished by the scent of roses, he recklessly poured in all there was" of his mother's best perfume. That seems to do it. Later, holding the bottled mixture, his slumbering body rises into the air "like a bubble rising in water." He wakens unafraid and sails through the air, to onlookers' amazement. He floats past two rabbits in a balloon (leaving them "flabbergasted" and "electrified from ears to scuts"), ascends through a storm until he is "suspended in the heavens like a coat on a hanger," and finally lets himself down by sprinkling out the magic liquid in discrete drops. There's no telling how Steig arrived at Gorky's name—or that of his cousin Gogol, who is "goggle-eyed" as Gorky comes rolling by. "He tore after his cousin yelling 'Gorky! Gorky! What's up?'" To which Gorky, of course, replies "I am," and laughs at his cousin's "look of stupid wonder." There are more wonders when Gorky lands, and more puns, with no need for questions and answers. Like Gorky, who seems to float inertly through the clouds, Steig treats the most remarkable events with aplomb, tossing them off as all in a day's dreamwork.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1981

ISBN: 0374427844

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character.

SPOOKY POOKIE

One of Boynton's signature characters celebrates Halloween.

It's Halloween time, and Pookie the pig is delighted. Mom helps the little porker pick out the perfect Halloween costume, a process that spans the entire board book. Using an abcb rhyme scheme, Boynton dresses Pookie in a series of cheerful costumes, including a dragon, a bunny, and even a caped superhero. Pookie eventually settles on the holiday classic, a ghost, by way of a bedsheet. Boynton sprinkles in amusing asides to her stanzas as Pookie offers costume commentary ("It's itchy"; "It's hot"; "I feel silly"). Little readers will enjoy the notion of transforming themselves with their own Halloween costumes while reading this book, and a few parents may get some ideas as well. Boynton's clean, sharp illustrations are as good as ever. This is Pookie's first holiday title, but readers will surely welcome more.

A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51233-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Robin Corey/Random

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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