CUCKOO/CUCU

A festive bilingual offering from Ehlert (Moon Rope/Un lazo a la luna, 1992, etc.), with the Spanish translation by Gloria de Aragon Andejar, based on a Mayan tale explaining how the cuckoo became plain. Cuckoo has a lovely song and glorious plumage, but she is lazy. The other birds and animals enjoy her singing, but caw about her lack of ambition. When Owl, the "bird boss" (or "el jefe de los pajaros"), announces that the next day will be seed collection, all the birds go to sleep dreaming of the work ahead. But Cuckoo stays awake, singing, and thus spots the fire that threatens the food supply. She works through the night alone, saving seeds. Her beautiful feathers and sweet voice are scorched; in the morning, her fellows almost don't recognize her. They all agree, as they rejoice in her deed, that "you can't tell much about a bird by looking at its feathers." Ehlert's note says she was inspired by Mexican folk art, and echoes of Mexican papercuts, tinware, santos sculpture, and other forms appear in flat, collage-like patterns, vibrating with rich, bright color. Silver cutouts like tin ornaments illustrate the glossary that appears on the title page-spread. A book almost as much a piece of folk art as it is a folktale. (Picture book/folklore. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-15-200274-X

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1997

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I CAN BE ANYTHING!

A young boy wonders aloud to a rabbit friend what he will be when he grows up and imagines some outrageous choices. “Puddle stomper,” “bubble gum popper,” “mixing-bowl licker,” “baby-sis soother” are just some of the 24 inspiringly creative vocations Spinelli’s young dreamer envisions in this pithy rhymed account. Aided by Liao’s cleverly integrated full-bleed mixed-media illustrations, which radiate every hue of the rainbow, and dynamic typesetting with words that swoop and dive, the author’s perspective on this adult-inspired question yields some refreshingly child-oriented answers. Given such an irresistible array of options—“So many jobs! / They’re all such fun”—the boy in the end decides, in an exuberant double gatefold, “I’m going to choose… / EVERY ONE!”—a conclusion befitting a generation expected to have more than six careers each. Without parents or peers around to corral this carefree child’s dreams, the possibilities of being whatever one wants appear both limitless and attainable. An inspired take on a timeless question. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-16226-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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NOT A BOX

Dedicated “to children everywhere sitting in cardboard boxes,” this elemental debut depicts a bunny with big, looping ears demonstrating to a rather thick, unseen questioner (“Are you still standing around in that box?”) that what might look like an ordinary carton is actually a race car, a mountain, a burning building, a spaceship or anything else the imagination might dream up. Portis pairs each question and increasingly emphatic response with a playscape of Crockett Johnson–style simplicity, digitally drawn with single red and black lines against generally pale color fields. Appropriately bound in brown paper, this makes its profound point more directly than such like-themed tales as Marisabina Russo’s Big Brown Box (2000) or Dana Kessimakis Smith’s Brave Spaceboy (2005). (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-112322-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2006

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