One thing’s for sure: This will be a big hit.

THE BIG BLUE THING ON THE HILL

When a mysterious “big blue thing” appears, forest animals are baffled and afraid, so they try to make it leave.

Readers (or their parents) will know that the “thing” is a VW bus, but the animals don’t. Nevertheless, they sense that it poses danger. After much speculation about what it might be (an elephant? a dinosaur? a thing?), the wolves suggest frightening it away. They howl at it in the night, all to no avail. The bears are equally unsuccessful in spooking it with growls, and the wild boars’ huffs, puffs, pushes and shoves can’t budge it either. The smaller creatures (foxes, badgers and weasels) then try to dig around it and bury it—only to have it make a noise. This frightens everyone, and they run to seek the counsel of the Wise Owls, who suggest that the very smallest of creatures form a “BIG BUG FLYING SQUAD” with “a snake or two…for good measure” to swarm the big blue thing. Lo and behold, the plan works, and the animals can enjoy their pristine wilderness in peace—until another visitor arrives to deliver a space-age punch line. While the story never explains why the thing is unquestionably a threat, it revels in its telling, and detailed, playful, digital art succeeds in heightening humor.

One thing’s for sure: This will be a big hit. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7403-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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