A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age.


Buitrago and Yockteng’s latest literary endeavor reconsiders a well-known Aesop fable.

A lion and a mouse live in the woods among other creatures big and small. The mouse, “a busybody and a glutton,” one day decides to enter the lion’s home uninvited. Before the rude guest can leave, the “very lovely” lion seizes him by the tail. The lion threatens the mouse, who would rather not be eaten. (He intends on meeting his girlfriend, after all.) So, the mouse offers to repay the lion someday in exchange for his life. The lion, ever a generous host, laughs off the proposal “as only lions can” but casts the mouse out instead of eating him. Naturally, the lion must swallow his pride the next day after falling prey to a hunter’s trap. At first, the lion doesn’t recognize the mouse “because all mice looked alike to him” (a telling detail), but the mouse nonetheless frees the frightened feline from an unfortunate fate. Up until now, the story beats remain the same as Aesop’s as Buitrago weaves this familiar tale, lacing it through with enough peculiar details to build strong personalities for the lion and the mouse. The author, however, continues the story and moves beyond the well-worn fable to ascertain how a friendship can forge itself, stemming from reciprocated kindness. Yockteng’s ferocious, low-key mixed-media artwork features stunning vignettes and page-filling spreads of woodlands populated with curious creatures.

A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.


Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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