The gentle, descriptive text and appealing illustrations succeed in establishing an atmosphere of a warm, crowded, noisy...

A HOME IN THE BARN

Creatures large and small take shelter together in a warm barn in this evocative collaboration with text by Brown and illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Pinkney.

The first few pages are related in rhyming text, while the illustrations set the scene with a traditional red barn and fall leaves blowing in a gusty wind. The text then shifts to prose that describes various animals coming into the barn, including field mice, horses, bats, and goats. A calf is born in the barn, and the brown-skinned farmer names her Winter Morn. The farmer’s son, who has brown skin and black, Afro-textured hair, is shown milking a cow on the final spread, where the opening rhyming lines are repeated. The text is lyrical and atmospheric though not as exceptional as some of Brown’s better-known works. Pinkney’s luminous watercolor-and-pastel illustrations create a cozy environment for the animals, using a double-page–spread format, a large trim size, and a thoughtful design. Tiny details are hidden in the pages, such as a grasshopper perched on a dried cornstalk and a line of ants marching toward the barn, and sound effects from some of the animals are also integrated into the illustrations. An artist’s note gives interesting, specific details about Pinkney’s artistic process.

The gentle, descriptive text and appealing illustrations succeed in establishing an atmosphere of a warm, crowded, noisy barn where everyone is safe and sheltered. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-623787-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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