Potential confusion aside, this well-told and beautifully illustrated offering makes a distinctive addition to folklore...

BUSY-BUSY LITTLE CHICK

Based on a fable of the Nkundo people of Central Africa, this compelling tale brings home the message that if you want something done right—or at all—sometimes you have to do it yourself.

Mama Nsoso’s shivering chicks are in desperate need of a new home. Though Mama promises to build them a cozy one that will keep the wind, rain and cold at bay, each day she is distracted by something delicious to eat, and each night the disappointed chicks cry with cold. Except, that is, for the persistent, industrious Little Chick, who, exhausted from working alone and in secret on a new nest for the family, falls right asleep. When the nest is ready, Little Chick invites his brothers and sisters in for a good night’s rest. The tale incorporates non-English words and sounds without any context or framing device, and readers must locate the author’s note and glossary on the final page to discover that these words are from the language of the Nkundo people, who are the original tellers of this tale. To further complicate matters, while Pinkney’s vibrant, energetically loose illustrations lovingly and skillfully render Mama and her chicks, they give almost no indication of setting.

Potential confusion aside, this well-told and beautifully illustrated offering makes a distinctive addition to folklore collections.   (author’s note, glossary) (Picture book/folktale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34746-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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 charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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