Share this book with children who have a high level of tolerance for ambiguity—and be ready to discuss.

GUSTAVE

Greater love hath no mouse….

Simard and Pratt tell in an uncompromisingly honest style the tale of a mouse whose best friend, Gustave, is eaten by a cat, apparently sacrificing himself to save the narrator and allow him to escape. Once the terrified mouse is sure Gustave is gone, he wanders alone through a bleak urban landscape, dreading going home to his mother without his dearest friend. Finally, he returns to the mousehole. Mother is making dinner. She has already guessed what happened and has a plan to make her son feel better. She pulls out a life-size stuffed mouse, identical to Gustave in every feature, which she just happens to have on hand. The mouse declares, “You will never be Gustave,” but he decides quickly that the lifelike toy will be an acceptable substitute, and in his imagination, it can come alive. Strikingly illustrated in a painterly style reminiscent of Whistler’s nightscapes, with sparse, hand-printed text, the book is clearly aiming to make an impression. Textured acrylic washes and figures heavily outlined in black give the book a gloomy, threatening air. For all the beauty of its artwork, the tone of this book is surprisingly somber for a children’s book, and readers may find it hard to discern a positive message.

Share this book with children who have a high level of tolerance for ambiguity—and be ready to discuss. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-451-0

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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PIRATES DON'T TAKE BATHS

Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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