A gentle story of calm courage and of quiet, trusting perseverance that will comfort readers in their anxious times.

YELLOW KAYAK

A white child and a giraffe encounter danger and adventure in a small boat on the high seas.

A small child and a giraffe set off in a “kayak” (although the illustrations show the boat as a plank-framed, double-ended craft rather than what readers may think of as a kayak) for an unspecified destination, but readers get the idea that it’s meant to be merely a day trip. Then a sudden squall appears. The waves build, the paddle is lost, night descends, and the child and the giraffe snuggle together. Morning brings help in the arrival of sea creatures who return the paddle (and the child’s lost hat), but another crisis seems imminent when huge whales surround the little boat; however, the whales turn out to be rescuers, gently prodding the boat toward shore. Author Laden’s theme of calm courage, perseverance, and trust in the face of unforeseen difficulties is presented in an evocative, spare, rhyming format of four simple two-word lines per scene. Illustrator Castrillon’s decorative, full-of-heart illustrations (done in pencil with digital colorization) are well-matched to the text: their stylized imagery, muted colors on off-white paper, and occasional deliberate off-registration give them an antique chromolithography look that enhances the tale’s nostalgic, timeless feel.

A gentle story of calm courage and of quiet, trusting perseverance that will comfort readers in their anxious times. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0194-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

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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