THE BIG HOUSE AND THE LITTLE HOUSE

From far away down a long road, two animals make friends.

The horizontal orientation of this title offers long left-to-right spreads, and across them wanders a pale yellow road, sloping gradually upward. “At one end was a little house, standing all alone,” so tiny that readers must peer closely to glimpse the red-roofed miniature. Far away, up the low-grade hill, stands a “big house”— big only when compared to the small one, still small in the countryside landscape. Little Mouse and Big Bear each live contentedly, but both are lonely. Details twinkle: Little Mouse works in a busy bakery (with a chef’s toque and rolling pin) while Big Bear works “alone in the forest”; each heads away from the other’s house to reach work; and Little Mouse explores the forest only on the single day Big Bear explores the town. The prose in this translation from the Japanese is plainspoken and elegant. Fujishima uses fine black pen for outlines, shadings, and textures while light hues—tans, pinks, blues, and greens, all pale—round out the gentle scenes. After the two bond but before they quite solidify a friendship, the river overflows, endangering Little Mouse’s house. Big Bear ventures bravely out into an almost-unrecognizable panorama of rolling blue water, blue trees, and blue wind—but readers will recognize the shape of the road between the houses, and there is, natch, a happy ending that’s the opposite of treacly.

Tender and companionable. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: tomorrow

ISBN: 978-1-64614-049-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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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 pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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