I KNOW THE MOON

A fox, a moth, an owl, a mouse, and a frog—night creatures all—fight with each other over their definitions of the moon. The fox says it’s “a rabbit, swift and large and glowing;” the moth that it’s a big cocoon “where moths of legend are born;” the owl that it’s “a window in a midnight room;” the mouse that it’s “a seed in endless bloom;” and the frog that it’s “a lily pad for froggy croons.” To settle their quarrel, they visit the Man of Science, who lives “alone with his thoughts in a tower high enough to almost touch the moon.” The Man of Science reads to them from a “squarish book,” but the animals do not find the moon in its inky pages, and return sadly home, each holding to his or her own definition. The fox speaks for all of them when he says, “The Man says it’s made of letters—I know it’s more the spaces in between.” The concepts and vocabulary in this sometimes disconcertingly rhyming text are overly abstract, complex, and metaphorical for the audience of three- to seven-year-olds for whom the book and its illustrations are targeted, although there may somewhere be a five-year-old with a philosophical bent to whom the book will appeal. The illustrations, too, convey mixed messages with their combination of bold and sophisticated colors and patterns and their comically caricatured animals. The white words on black backgrounds are placed to the far left or right of each opening, leaving no room for them to be spaced in lines that reflect their rhythmic patterns. Well-intentioned text—but it misses its mark. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23425-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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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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