This Zen exploration of belonging and groundedness is further enhanced by a sensitive translation and pithy, philosophical...

FEATHER

In this first collaboration between Chinese author Cao and Brazilian artist Mello—both of whom are recent Hans Christian Andersen award winners—a feather embarks on a quest to discover to whom she belongs.

From a kingfisher and cuckoo to wild geese and a peacock, the birds universally ignore Feather at first but ultimately convey the same message: she does not belong to them. The protagonist believes that finding her bird of origin will enable her to fly even higher, so she continues the journey. The creatures have distinctive voices, and the compositions fuse a sense of Asian design with a South American palette. Each bird takes center stage on the double-page spreads, a marvel of extravagant pattern against solid, vibrant backgrounds. Pottery and natural features provide occasional context. The feather is an abstract silhouette on the right border of each scene. At the climax, a kindly skylark lifts Feather to new heights but falls prey, alas, to a circling hawk. (The demise occurs offstage.) Devastated, Feather floats to Earth, where she eventually spots a parade of chicks marching into the sunshine; mother hen is missing a feather. The author wisely allows readers to ponder a potential conversation and next steps.

This Zen exploration of belonging and groundedness is further enhanced by a sensitive translation and pithy, philosophical introductions by both creators—masterful storytelling. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-914671-85-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Elsewhere Editions

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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