Lucid and insightful, Mathers presents death and grief as natural processes with compassion and great care.

WHEN AUNT MATTIE GOT HER WINGS

Lottie the hen must say goodbye to her beloved aunt Mattie in this gentle story about loss, grief and friendship.

When the hospital calls to say Aunt Mattie is getting weak, Lottie journeys to see her. On the long bus ride, happy memories surface—of shared picnics and jokes, and of Mattie herself, a bird full of humor and gusto, who found her calling as a nurse. But now Aunt Mattie is 99, ready to fly to the great beyond. For hours, Lottie sits with her aunt at the hospital. Descriptive details (the sound of Aunt Mattie’s breathing, the way she looks in the hospital bed, the feeling of day turning to night) are simply captured; yet in doing so, Mathers brings meaning to the clinical and unfamiliar. Here, these moments are precious and valuable. Throughout the tale, Lottie’s friend Herbie is a comforting presence. His innocent perspective allows even the very young to grasp complex concepts. As he drives Lottie to the bus station, meets her at the hospital and shares in her heartache, it’s clear his friendship and support make this difficult time bearable for Lottie. Together, the two scatter Aunt Mattie’s ashes in the ocean, so she’ll “always be near...mixed in with sand and sea.” Watercolor illustrations, painted in mostly square panels and organized like an old newspaper comic strip, are earnest and appealing.

Lucid and insightful, Mathers presents death and grief as natural processes with compassion and great care. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1044-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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