The energy snapping within each action-packed frame adds to the rollicking fun Bruce is definitely not having.

SPRING STINKS

From the Mother Bruce series

Ah, spring. It brings out the best in bears—unless the bear’s name is Bruce!

In this exploration of the character’s backstory, the book opens with Bruce as chirpy and full of bonhomie as a pterodactyl on a bad day. Ruth the bunny, however, is beside herself as she revels in the glories of the season. Pilfering Bruce’s basket, she insists on rubbing Bruce’s unappreciative nose in a cornucopia of scents (er—stinks). Grass? Daisies? Wet moose? “ ‘Grrrr!’ grumbles Bruce.” One after another, the fresh and abundant offerings of nature are met with Bruce’s ringing approval—well, more like a grudging tolerance—actually, a resounding, “Rrrr!” Wait a minute! Is that honey? Bruce likes honey, doesn’t he? But then a bee makes a “beeeeeeeline” straight for Bruce’s “beeeeeeehind.” He careens tail over teakettle, much to Ruth’s delight, down a grassy hill until he lands, honey-smeared, on his banged-up head right in the path of a—skunk! Spring stinks. Higgins’ sparse text is humorously juxtaposed with his signature, detail-packed, engaging illustrations. The mouse-sized treehouse and the despondent, dripping moose are especially delightful. Bruce’s unibrow is practically a protagonist in and of itself. Ruth’s exuberance plays off Bruce’s disgruntledness like a sweet pear off gorgonzola. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7-by-14-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

The energy snapping within each action-packed frame adds to the rollicking fun Bruce is definitely not having. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-06091-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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