A delightful tale that is likely to be a perennial first at storytime.


A collage of new experiences right from the first of the year.

A young girl with beige skin and straight, brown hair wakes up to the first day of the new year. Thus follows a parade of the year’s firsts—waffles, new umbrella, snowfall, fight with her brother (a recurring theme that compounds exponentially as the year goes on), and more. Klein’s simple, understated text effectively and poignantly paints a world of hilarity mixed with drama (“First crush”; “First missed bus”; “Second lost umbrella”). Shown in both vignettes and full-page art, Leng’s soft watercolor palette is punctuated by the characters’ evocative expressions that add to the emotional depth of the book. While books about the seasons are a familiar sight on shelves, this fresh twist offers young readers a glimpse of important moments in a child’s year—moments that add up to a wealth of experience and anticipation of firsts still to come. At times, the “first” motif slips slightly. These experiences are meant to occur within one year, so readers may wonder at “First giving” and “First getting” at the end of the year in winter (no birthdays?); or, for that matter, more than one mask (“First new mask”) at Halloween. However these are minor quibbles in an otherwise satisfying read. The endpapers are worth poring over, done in a scrapbook style. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-21-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A delightful tale that is likely to be a perennial first at storytime. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4208-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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  • Caldecott Honor Book


Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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