A glad frolic, perfect for a windy day.

A BOY, A BALL, AND A DOG

A game of catch between a boy and his dog takes an unexpected turn.

A dark-brown–haired, light-skinned, barefoot boy plays with his playful pooch. Happy in their routine, they race across pastureland, with barns, cows, and blooming trees as backdrop. But when a red balloon becomes their ball, and a strong wind rises, a new challenge arises. Across their picturesque town and over the pier it flies, until the white pup saves it. Realizing his boy is not near, he lets out a mournful howl—and the fickle wind takes the balloon back to the boy, and all are reunited. Short, simple sentences narrate the characters’ physical and emotional arcs. The artwork, done in a water-based medium, feels like a folk journey, with its pastoral setting and honest interpretation of the imagery. Through it, the artist explores point of view with different angles and perspectives. With trees bending, blossoms floating, and laundry flapping with each gust of wind, the canine’s chase across spreads is cinematic. This, combined with the vitality and vibrancy of the red balloon, recalls the classic short film The Red Balloon (1956). However, here—as the boy, high in his treehouse silhouetted against the bright sun, makes a catch—loved ones return, and all is restored.

A glad frolic, perfect for a windy day. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62672-287-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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