Fear of the unknown, neighborliness, and an attentive dog are just the start of conversational possibilities.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FOREST

This French Canadian import features a single father and son who undertake an ambitious project.

The two brown rabbits live with their dog on a farm in a village surrounded by evergreen forest: A wordless spread captures its density with distinct trunks visible at the silhouetted composition’s base, spires stretching to the tops of the pages, and the merest hints of light in the center. With young Arthur narrating, a minimalist text builds suspense: “People say that wolves live in the forest, and ogres, and giant badgers. No one ever goes in there!” His father, however, wants to know what’s on the other side, and a “magnificent” idea forms. Baking mounds of bread, he arouses curiosity in the villagers (and readers). Neighbors follow their noses and soon find themselves exchanging large stones for loaves; the construction of a tall tower will provide a vista. Selected details—clothing, wheat, the wagon—are rendered in red, yellow, and turquoise, contrasting with the setting’s earth tones and cream-colored pages. This orderly world turns into a scene out of a Brueghel painting when the villagers celebrate with games after a storm delays—but does not derail—the dream. The premise is not new, but the family structure, the cooperative community, and the quality of the precisely inked and colored art combine for a riveting read.

Fear of the unknown, neighborliness, and an attentive dog are just the start of conversational possibilities. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77164-796-0

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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