While lacking the timelessness of Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed (2015) and the humor of Janet Stevens’ Tops and Bottoms...

BADGER'S PERFECT GARDEN

There is no drought of picture books about animal friends making a garden. The hook in this one is the message that when plans go awry, there may still be a rainbow at the end.

It is spring. Badger has dozens of jars of seeds that he saved from last summer to plant the “perfect garden.” His friends Red Squirrel, Weasel, and Dormouse help him by raking and clearing the ground, marking the rows with string, and making holes for the seeds. They celebrate their efforts with muffins and mulberry juice. Over the next three days damp weather accelerates from showers to a heavy downpour, and Badger is unable to rescue his precious seeds from washing away. Badger tries to distract himself from his sorrow with chores and projects (and naps). Then one sunny summer day his friends rush in to tell him he has the perfect garden after all; the seeds just found new places to grow. The attractive, full-page illustrations show flair and gentle humor (Badger’s yoga practice will have readers chuckling). The animals are lightly anthropomorphic; all wear some sort of human garment or accessory, and the texture of the animal fur is beautifully realized.

While lacking the timelessness of Kadir Nelson’s If You Plant a Seed (2015) and the humor of Janet Stevens’ Tops and Bottoms (1995), the message of coping with unmet expectations and not giving up hope is worthwhile. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-53411-000-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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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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