A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age.


Buitrago and Yockteng’s latest literary endeavor reconsiders a well-known Aesop fable.

A lion and a mouse live in the woods among other creatures big and small. The mouse, “a busybody and a glutton,” one day decides to enter the lion’s home uninvited. Before the rude guest can leave, the “very lovely” lion seizes him by the tail. The lion threatens the mouse, who would rather not be eaten. (He intends on meeting his girlfriend, after all.) So, the mouse offers to repay the lion someday in exchange for his life. The lion, ever a generous host, laughs off the proposal “as only lions can” but casts the mouse out instead of eating him. Naturally, the lion must swallow his pride the next day after falling prey to a hunter’s trap. At first, the lion doesn’t recognize the mouse “because all mice looked alike to him” (a telling detail), but the mouse nonetheless frees the frightened feline from an unfortunate fate. Up until now, the story beats remain the same as Aesop’s as Buitrago weaves this familiar tale, lacing it through with enough peculiar details to build strong personalities for the lion and the mouse. The author, however, continues the story and moves beyond the well-worn fable to ascertain how a friendship can forge itself, stemming from reciprocated kindness. Yockteng’s ferocious, low-key mixed-media artwork features stunning vignettes and page-filling spreads of woodlands populated with curious creatures.

A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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