THE BIG HOUSE AND THE LITTLE HOUSE

From far away down a long road, two animals make friends.

The horizontal orientation of this title offers long left-to-right spreads, and across them wanders a pale yellow road, sloping gradually upward. “At one end was a little house, standing all alone,” so tiny that readers must peer closely to glimpse the red-roofed miniature. Far away, up the low-grade hill, stands a “big house”— big only when compared to the small one, still small in the countryside landscape. Little Mouse and Big Bear each live contentedly, but both are lonely. Details twinkle: Little Mouse works in a busy bakery (with a chef’s toque and rolling pin) while Big Bear works “alone in the forest”; each heads away from the other’s house to reach work; and Little Mouse explores the forest only on the single day Big Bear explores the town. The prose in this translation from the Japanese is plainspoken and elegant. Fujishima uses fine black pen for outlines, shadings, and textures while light hues—tans, pinks, blues, and greens, all pale—round out the gentle scenes. After the two bond but before they quite solidify a friendship, the river overflows, endangering Little Mouse’s house. Big Bear ventures bravely out into an almost-unrecognizable panorama of rolling blue water, blue trees, and blue wind—but readers will recognize the shape of the road between the houses, and there is, natch, a happy ending that’s the opposite of treacly.

Tender and companionable. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64614-049-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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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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