Whimsical and charming illustrations (literally) elevate this simple tale.

SHY WILLOW

Willow, a painfully shy rabbit who lives in an abandoned mailbox, plucks up her courage to journey on the grandest adventure ever.

The outdoors can be scary for a small rabbit, and Willow’s favorite quiet and cozy place to be is inside her cheerily multihued mailbox, where her pencil drawings are tacked all over the walls. One day, a letter flutters in through the slot—a letter addressed to the moon. In it, a child’s scrawl asks the moon to please shine big and bright for his mother’s birthday tomorrow. Alas, who will deliver the letter to the moon on such short notice? Could Willow do it? Min’s sweet illustrations convey Willow’s hesitation, her determination, her fear—and her dejection as the moon proves difficult to reach. Even after a wondrous soaring flight on birdback (so hopeful!) is thwarted by a gust of wind, she perseveres, voyaging to the moon in a way only she and her trusty sketchbook together could have achieved. Willow is a white rabbit, and the few humans depicted have light skin and cartoony features with dots for eyes. But Min’s soft, colorful illustrations (as well as a rabbit protagonist making her way in a human world) give readers a magical feeling from the beginning, and the climax is lovely to behold. They make this otherwise slight story worth a look.

Whimsical and charming illustrations (literally) elevate this simple tale. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 9781-64614-035-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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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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