A witty, thought-provoking triumph.

SWARM OF BEES

An angry kid wreaks havoc until a father’s restorative embrace brings love and forgiveness to child and community.

Tomato in hand, spite on his face, a young boy pulls his tomato-laden wagon across the front endpapers, straight for a bees’ nest. Readers will delight in the title page’s payoff, as the nest sways from the tomato’s impact and hostile bees pour forth. Through the town they fly with the boy, gauging possible targets: a sailor and his mother, workers, pets, apartment dwellers. All are considered by the clever narrator, who uses nursery rhyme–esque repetition. But then it’s revealed: The boy stung all the targets with his tomatoes! The aggrieved neighbors and bees now chase the child across a map full of tomato-splattered evidence. Acting as a metaphor for the emotional states of the characters, the bees are soon caught and calmed by a beekeeper while the boy is soothed by his father’s warm and loving embrace. The artwork, done with ink, rubber stamps, and digital collage, perfectly enhances the text, balancing its emotional depth with comedic beats. Rarely does a design so fully consider how images tell a story from cover to cover, from the swarm leading the eyes to the ingenious use of shapes, color, patterns, negative space, and framing. Mischief-makers will be captivated by its humor and promise of unconditional love and forgiveness; their caregivers will appreciate the exploration of emotions and possible responses.

A witty, thought-provoking triumph. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-39282-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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