An enormously satisfying surprise completes this wholly original narrative.

THE FOX ON THE SWING

This Lithuanian import portrays the friendship developing between a boy and a fox.

An omniscient narrator introduces Paul’s family: His father pilots a helicopter, and his mother makes pottery. More unusual is their dwelling, which is a tall tree in the park. Close observers of the zany mixed media and digital collages will glimpse a bushy orange tail early on. Paul’s first encounter with the lanky fox, clad in blue boots and enjoying a swing in the park, is during his daily walk home from the bakery. Although the fox engages in philosophical and somewhat mysterious conversations (reminiscent but not duplicative of her counterpart in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince), the boy anticipates these visits even though it means sharing his bakery treat. He learns how to be a friend in ways appropriate to her moods, especially exulting in the swinging and shouting about things that make them happy. Suddenly concerned one day, Paul asks: “Will I always find you here?” She replies: “Of course not….When I need to be somewhere else, that’s where I’ll go.” The text is longer than in many American picture books, but there is much to savor: the honesty of unspoken ruminations, challenging dialogue, and myriad unexpected details, such as a sign-carrying parade of protesting birds. The humans’ skin tones range from Paul’s paper-white to pink or red.

An enormously satisfying surprise completes this wholly original narrative. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-500-65156-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

CLAYMATES

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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