A tender, brilliant tour de force from the Netherlands.

LITTLE FOX

An exuberant young fox plays joyfully among birds and animals, not always paying attention to possible dangers.

He cannot resist racing behind two purple butterflies, causing him to zoom past the edge of an outcropping, falling heavily. His story is first told wordlessly in detailed illustrations that continue as text begins while he is unconscious, narrating a dream in which he recalls his development from birth, playing with his brothers and sisters, being cared for and taught by his parents, and having adventures in the world around him. A human child on a bicycle appears, whose activities are presented wordlessly. The narration picks up Fox’s dream again and comes full circle with the child finding Little Fox and returning him home safely to his fox family. Van de Vendel’s text describes the action in carefully constructed stream-of-consciousness, always exactly complementing Tolman’s remarkable illustrations, which are rendered in a mesmerizing variety of forms and techniques. (Production notes at the end provide insight into their creation.) They invite readers into a beautiful, fully realized dreamscape. Backgrounds are gray-green, white, and soft tan, with birds and animals accurately drawn and softly hued. Little Fox and his family are seen in the brightest possible shade of orange, and the kind human child, who is White, also has bright orange hair and clothing. Readers will cheer Little Fox’s full recovery while they study each page to find every glorious detail.

A tender, brilliant tour de force from the Netherlands. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64614-007-7

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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