TOO CROWDED

A goldfish seeks drier pastures.

Gil lives in a round glass bowl with “a plant, a castle, and 138 pebbles to clean every day.” But it is “TOO CROWDED!” Gil cries, cradling his snoot after bumping it against the side of his bowl. In a shocking, jubilant twist, Gil slaps a bandage on his nose, shoves his rear fins into some sneakers, and packs a rolling bag, off on a quest to find a new house “that is not too crowded.” A bird’s nest is roomy, but the bird song is “TOO LOUD!” Cat’s house is huge and quiet, but…there’s a cat in it. Gil hitches a ride on Turtle’s house, but when the spoilsport reptile reminds him that fish “can’t breathe air,” Gil suddenly realizes that he’s suffocating. This plays out in vignettes in dramatic, Wile E. Coyote fashion. Luckily, his human, an overalls-clad Black child with short, curly hair and a bow, comes to the rescue and brings Gil back to his bowl. And when Turtle moves in too, it turns out that a bowl with a plant, a castle, 138 pebbles, and a friend is not too crowded after all. The story is a satisfying balance of familiar and fresh, with an endearing protagonist and an especially timely message about isolation and connection.

Utterly delightful. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-2238-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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