A young recluse makes an unusual connection to the outside world in Napoli's (Beast, 2000, etc.) first picture book. Albert lives in his apartment, protected from the world by the bars on his window. Every day he listens to the sounds outside—to laughter and other good noises and to arguing and other bad noises—and sticks his hand out the window, but every day he draws it back and stays inside. One day while his arm is outstretched, two cardinals build a nest in it, forcing the good-hearted Albert to remain with his hand out the window for weeks as they raise their family. He sleeps standing up and, by peeping insistently, gets the cardinals to bring him food (blackberries and beetles, which he eventually comes to enjoy). Through the unwitting intervention of the cardinals, he learns that the world, despite its bad noises, holds wondrous possibilities. LaMarche's (The Raft, 2000, etc.) colored-pencil illustrations portray Albert as something of an aesthete, with a high forehead and little intellectual spectacles, and views vary from close-up images of Albert's quizzical face to long views of the apartment building with Albert's small hand protruding from the bars. It is an unabashedly unlikely story, whose message is somewhat unsubtly hammered home when it is left to Albert to convince a reluctant fledgling to leave the nest. The deadpan prose and warmly humorous illustrations combine to keep the reader's disbelief suspended (just barely), crafting a sweetly reassuring book about taking chances. This fits nicely with Tohby Riddle's The Singing Hat (p. 187). (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-201572-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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Hee haw.

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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