Though the message is as old as time, its delivery here is fresh and sweet as August corn

IF YOU PLANT A SEED

Nelson spins a gardening metaphor about kindness.

“If you plant a tomato seed, a carrot seed, and a cabbage seed,” that’s what will grow. A rabbit and a mouse garden together and delight in their harvest—but a mourning dove, crow, blue jay, cardinal and sparrow come begging. “If you plant a seed of selfishness”—here Nelson depicts the gardeners refusing to share—“it will grow, and grow, and grow // into a heap of trouble.” A monumental food fight leaves all the combatants splattered with tomato. Amid the debris, the mouse offers possibly the last intact fruit—and the birds respond with an airlift of seeds that sprout into an astonishing garden, proving that “the fruits of kindness // …are very, very sweet.” To this spare, fablelike text Nelson pairs stunningly cinematic oils, modulating palette and perspective to astonishing effect. The tomatoes gleam red against blue sky and green leaves, and it’s easy to see why the circling birds descend in hopes of a meal. Wordless spreads convey drama and humor; a double-page close-up of all five birds depicted from the front, each head a-tilt and silhouetted against blue sky, is hysterical. The animals are slightly anthropomorphized; they read books but wear no clothes, communicating joy, dejection, anger and contentment in every bone.

Though the message is as old as time, its delivery here is fresh and sweet as August corn . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229889-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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