With its intriguing photographs but less-than-compelling story, this will appeal mainly to fans of her first outing.


A little girl named Anja has another Scandinavian-themed adventure in this story illustrated with supersized photographs, a companion to The Christmas Wish (2013).

This time the story has a summertime setting, with Anja visiting her cousins at their remote mountain farm. The three children explore the countryside, playing with goats and riding together on the family’s huge horse. During a game of hide-and-seek, Anja wishes she were small enough to hide even more successfully from everyone, and her wish is mysteriously granted. She shrinks down to just a few inches, flying off on the back of a friendly finch to experience her new size in relation to other settings and animals. She uses a pine cone as a sled, makes a birch-bark boat with a squirrel and rides home astride a helpful rabbit. The high-quality digitally composed photographs draw readers in with sweeping mountain vistas and charmingly posed interactions between Anja and her talking animal friends. The text, however, is a little too wordy and enthusiastic, with a too-jolly tone and a surfeit of exclamation points: “Anja! You’re so tiny!” The ending falls back on the tired was-it-a-dream-or-not conclusion. “Maybe it wasn’t a dream!” marvels Anja as she notices bits of vegetation on her sheets.

With its intriguing photographs but less-than-compelling story, this will appeal mainly to fans of her first outing. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37922-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Hee haw.

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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