A neatly paced, cleverly presented, humorous lesson in awareness

SLOTH SLEPT ON

Finding an alien animal asleep in the tree in their garden, children question what it is, making a surprising discovery while overlooking the obvious.

When children spy a nonresponsive animal asleep in their tree, they know he’s unlike any animal they’ve ever seen. With the sleeping creature in tow (in a wagon), the curious kids get no help from their busy father. After eliminating elephants, tigers, horses, and bears and checking their books, the puzzled kids wonder if their creature may have “traveled for a very long time, from somewhere far away.” In a book about rain forests, they discover the mystery creature’s a sloth, indigenous to rain forests of Central and South America. Packing their sleeping sloth into a box with leaves and toys, the kids mail him to the rain forest, unaware their sloth has escaped from the local zoo despite copious hints in the illustrations. Relying on simple shapes and judicious use of white space, droll watercolor paintings reveal the back story of the sloth’s unexpected presence. The sloth remains blissfully asleep as the clueless kids ship him to the rain forest, oblivious to the posters and newspaper headlines announcing his escape from the zoo. Useful sloth facts and visual vignettes of the sloth as an astronaut, pirate, and knight add gravitas and levity, respectively.

A neatly paced, cleverly presented, humorous lesson in awareness . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1611-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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