A mixed bag, to be sure, but for those children living near these island oases, there is much that will seem familiar.


Casanova turns in something different with this lyrical look at an island’s start to a brand new day.

There is no plot, just a series of island vignettes that are sometimes beautiful in their simplicity, the typesetting of the words on the pages at times echoing their meanings: “Pine trees s t r e t c h / their limbs and branches.” Precise words introduce nature vocabulary to little listeners—dangle, plunge, gargle, shimmy—and paint word pictures: “Heron swoops, / a two-stilt statue.” And the island is filled with the flora and fauna of the north woods: deer, moose, spider, loon, mallards, bees. Greens, blues, and browns dominate Wroblewski’s woodcuts. The ravens and chickadees are so close to realistic they might fly away, the heron’s feathers are gorgeously detailed, and the bear and red squirrel scenes might be artwork on a wall. Other times, though, the illustrations are a miss—the opening spread of water and sky is unrealistic to the point of being abstract, and the closing picture uses the same sky. The addition of “you,” a blond, white child who wakes up, eats breakfast, and rushes out to explore the world, can be seen as intruding on the natural scene, and Wroblewski’s close-up of this child is wooden and almost ugly.

A mixed bag, to be sure, but for those children living near these island oases, there is much that will seem familiar. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8166-8935-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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