A highly unusual picture book to satisfy the heart of anyone who enjoys making the natural world part of a Christmas...

COMING HOME

A robin travels alone for many miles to reach his mate by Christmas.

In beautifully poetic language, Morpurgo portrays the urgency of the bird’s longing to return home. The robin encounters dangers along his migration path, from rain, snow, and stormy seas to a narrow escape from a hawk. Recounting the robin’s journey in first-person verse casts the bird’s voice in a counterpoint to lovely illustrations of a landscape often shown literally from a bird’s-eye view. Repetition of words and motifs echo the rhythm of his wings and heartbeat in a sometimes-plaintive voice: “Dream of home, think only of her, / Waiting for me, looking for me, longing for me. / Beat, my wings, beat faster. / Easy, my heart, go steady. / Steady.” The robin joins a flock of thrushes “over sun-dancing sea” before, suddenly lost in a dense fog, the robin spies a fishing boat to rest on. Choppy waves and the little bird’s disorientation are expertly captured in images that break from the pattern, the action slowing down as he reaches the boat, then looks up to see a person looming over him. Finally warm, fed, and rested, he’s released by friendly hands over a calm sea to finish his journey. Migration information at the beginning explains that the Scandinavian robin migrates south to Britain around Christmastime.

A highly unusual picture book to satisfy the heart of anyone who enjoys making the natural world part of a Christmas celebration. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0042-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.

WE'RE GOING ON A GOON HUNT

Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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