This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New...

LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY

From the Little Elliot series

The big city is clearly New York, but it’s a grayed and sepia city sometime in the late 1940s, judging from the cars and clothing.

Elliot is a small, polka-dot elephant who loves his city even though it is hard for him to catch a cab or even open a door. (And he does the dishes by sitting in the sink with them.) He’s too little to be seen when he tries to buy his favorite treat, a cupcake, and that makes him sad. But he sees a tiny, very hungry mouse trying desperately to scale a trash bin for scraps. He manages to help get Mouse something to eat, and lo! He feels “like the tallest elephant in the world!” With Mouse’s help, the next day he gets that cupcake. The last image peers through Elliot’s window to find him and Mouse sharing it. The Flatiron Building, brownstone steps and the Empire State Building are clearly recognizable, giving the story Big Apple authenticity. The art has its own meticulous beauty, but the story is more saccharine than sweet—rather like too much frosting on a cupcake. The endpapers are a lush repetitive pattern of variegated cupcakes, with cameos by Elliot and Mouse.

This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New York City images in their dark, soft palette. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9825-9

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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