The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills.


Who needs a cookie? Give a mouse a paintbrush!

Janson lives in a museum, in a cozy corner with a pillow and a rose-speckled blanket. One day, she stumbles upon something new, “and her little world opened.” Striding across a gray page, with a soft white glow around her figure to show energy, Janson emerges into a white background and finds—art! Immediately entranced, this self-possessed, humble rodent sets to work copying the masters. A grid of pop-art self-portraits (Janson’s face, with her tenderly expressive eyebrow angle) pays homage to Andy Warhol’s Marilyn series; Janson reclining in a jungle recalls Rousseau; Janson’s snout, elongated and triangulated into cubism, echoes Picasso. Each clean, white page centers Janson at work; an occasional wall angle, easel or dropcloth nimbly enhances the minimal composition. Janson’s gray body and striped skirt are warm hues of low saturation, sending focus to the colors within her artwork: Campbell’s red soup can with mouse face, à la Warhol; blues and yellows for van Gogh’s Starry Night; primaries for a geometric Mondrian mouse and a Munch mouse Scream. When museum renovation bars Janson from the art wing, she weeps, truly bereft, then forges ahead, painting from memory and defining her own style. Discovery and an exhibit follow. Janson’s climactic mousterpiece features canvas texture showing through the paint, honoring her beloved medium.

The joyful clarity of both vision and execution thrills. (notes on 22 artists referenced) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59643-549-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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