The theme is handled with judgment and sensitivity at just the right level, and the subdued black-and-white drawings,...

THE TENTH GOOD THING ABOUT BARNEY

For many children, the first encounter with death occurs with the loss of a pet; for such an occasion Mrs. Viorst offers honest consolation that emphasizes the cyclical continuity of life and applies as well to human death.

A little boy's cat dies and the child is "very sad." His mother suggests that he think of ten good things about the pet to tell at the funeral when father buries him next day, but the boy can only think of nine. After the funeral, the boy and his sister argue about whether Barney is in heaven or in the ground. Father says, "We don't know too much about heaven. We can't be absolutely sure that it's there." Then father plants some seeds and talks about how "things change in the ground," and at bedtime the boy announces to his mother the tenth good thing:"Barney is in the ground and he's helping to make flowers."

The theme is handled with judgment and sensitivity at just the right level, and the subdued black-and-white drawings, affectionate but unsentimental, are perfectly attuned. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 1971

ISBN: 978-0-689-71203-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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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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