BARNYARD SLAM

Behind closed barn doors, boisterous farm animals perform at an open-mike poetry slam. While the mouse serves as the lookout for the farm family, the creative cast fights for the spotlight. Hosted by bossy Yo Mama Goose, each character presents an original poem, often drawing on classic and contemporary literature for inspiration. The cow disputes bovine myths promulgated by familiar nursery rhymes, and the lamb channels Dr. Seuss. The haughty host repeatedly interjects her flowery poem until the performance is disrupted. Witty wordplay and abundant puns pepper the animals’ speech. The annoyed turkey protests, “I did not think your sign, / Be There or Be-Headed, is funny. / It stopped me cold turkey.” Quickly shifting the focus to each performer, the story depends more on zinging punchlines than descriptive narrative; action rapidly builds through targeted one-liners. Meisel’s pencil-and-watercolor double-page spreads feature soft colors and thin lines, emphasizing the dialogue’s comedic elements. Anthropomorphized cartoon characters wear bandanas and sit cross-legged on hay; their wide-eyed expressions enhance the humorous tension. The successful result is high-spirited, lighthearted barnyard banter. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1907-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.

TRUMAN

A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.

Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.

Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1664-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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