A wordless, singing infusion of love and energy into a home.

OVER THE SHOP

In this wordless tale, a chosen family forms.

As a child washes breakfast dishes, their harried grandparent exits the kitchen directly into a general store, revealing that they live in rooms behind their shop. Upstairs, a rental apartment sits empty, rejected by prospective tenants, until a new couple looks past its grubby, run-down state. With elbow grease and enthusiasm, they fix peeling wallpaper, cracking plaster, and cabinets hanging off hinges. They also give the shop’s exterior a new coat of paint and share in running it, easing the grandparent’s workload and spirits. A new family of four is born. Leng uses unbordered panels, sometimes full-page, sometimes small and square, sometimes horizontal. Her ink-and-watercolor paintings are gentle and dreamy, with a real beating heart. Child and grandparent are White; the new family members are an interracial couple, one brown-skinned (long hair, billowy skirt), one Asian-presenting (short hair, jeans). A few carefully placed pride rainbows make queerness explicit: a barely noticeable rainbow belt; a rainbow hat, tiny in a distance shot; and, finally, an unmistakable (and unprecedented for this shop) rainbow flag hanging outside the business at the very end. Careful readers may deduce that the Asian tenant is a transgender man, signaled through an extremely subtle plot point. Poverty and the child’s early loneliness are subtle too, but warmth never is.

A wordless, singing infusion of love and energy into a home. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0147-5

Page Count: 49

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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