A lovely, untrammeled look at a pet’s afterlife.

GOLDFISH GHOST

The ghost of a pet goldfish searches for a new home in this newest picture book from Snicket.

“Goldfish Ghost was born on the surface of the water in a bowl on the dresser in a boy’s room.” So begins a sweet and somber tale of a literal fish out of water, who finds the afterlife exceedingly lonely. A pale umbra carried by the wind, Goldfish Ghost floats quietly (and perpetually upside down) out of his bowl in search of conversation and company. But “it can be hard to find the company you are looking for,” and though he comes upon a flock of shrieking birds over the pier, a crowd of sunbathers on the beach, and even several ghosts of sea creatures hovering above the ocean, none feel quite right. Late in the day, just when he has given up, Goldfish Ghost at last hears a friendly voice of another lonely ghost hoping to find a friend, and settled atop a lighthouse, the two make excellent company. Although they occupy the same space on the page as their living counterparts, the ghostly specters (marked by their solid white coloring) are suffused with quiet emotion as they move between spreads. Mirroring the text’s unhurried and occasionally awkwardly paced narrative, Brown expertly and with deceptive simplicity sets the questing ghosts apart from the frenetic bustle of the living world.

A lovely, untrammeled look at a pet’s afterlife. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-507-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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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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