QUILL SOUP

A STONE SOUP STORY

From South African, an animal retelling of the “Stone Soup” folktale.

The stranger in this version is Noko, a porcupine. Having traveled without food “through the Valley of a Thousand Hills,” he arrives in a village hungry. When the villagers refuse him food, he creates a “thick and rich” soup with nothing but hot water and three of his own quills—and, of course, all the other ingredients that the villagers contribute. Impressed by Noko’s claim to have fed this soup to the king, they fork over carrots, mealies, beans, spinach, and more. The king, not present but imagined, is a lion; the villagers are Meerkat, Warthog, Rabbit, and bunches of others. The setting, called a village, is both bustling and ambiguous—an amalgam of village, forest, and jungle. The scenes are intensely crowded and bursting with energy; both animals and backgrounds are styled in two dimensions, so everything overlaps on one plane. These animals aren’t living in a specific static location so much as a world of bright red, yellow, blue, green, black, and white shapes and patterns. Occasionally an element seems industrial, such as small rounded rooms connected by ladders and tunnels that evoke factory pipes, but it’s not definite. Flap copy says that illustrator Blankenaar took inspiration from African sources ranging from broad to specific: “Tanzanian artwork, the wood sculpture of Western Africa, and the costumes and masks of the Bwa people of Burkina Faso.”

Visually dynamic. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62354-147-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 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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