Reassuring, inviting bedtime fare.

WINTER LULLABY

As winter approaches, a little bear tries to avoid hibernation.

With cool winds blowing, skies graying, and geese honking farewell, Mama tells Small Bear, “It’s time for bed.” Watching Mouse scurry by, Small Bear asks, “If she’s not sleeping, why must I?” Even Chipmunk’s awake gathering nuts. Mama explains that Mouse is rushing to rest in her grass nest and Chipmunk’s storing nuts before going to sleep. When Small Bear sees Skunk and Hare awake and romping together, Mama adds that soon Skunk will slumber underground and Hare will weather winter in a hollow log. Spying Badger and Old Racoon, Small Bear argues again to stay awake. Mama tells Small Bear that Badger and Racoon will also sleep soon. But Small Bear just doesn’t want to hide inside all winter. Mama finally convinces Small Bear that bears need to sleep in winter so they can awaken to spring. Composed in rhyming couplets, the spare text evokes autumn’s final days, preparations for winter hibernation, Small Bear’s reluctance to accept hibernation, and Mama’s patient responses. Simple, quiet illustrations executed in a soft, elegant, swirling style trace the transition from tawny autumn’s bareness to early winter’s silvery wonderland. Scenes of Mouse, Chipmunk, Skunk, Hare, Badger, Racoon, and, eventually, Small Bear and Mama snuggling safely inside their respective cozy winter dens should provoke useful parallels and opportunities for parents to cajole their little ones to sleep.

Reassuring, inviting bedtime fare. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0919-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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 charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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