A perceptive how-to for beginner storytellers.

ALSO AN OCTOPUS

OR, A LITTLE BIT OF NOTHING

Debut author Tokuda-Hall and veteran illustrator Davies deconstruct the art of storytelling in this insightful, playful primer.

What does every story need? A character, first of all. In this story, readers meet a ukulele-playing octopus. The octopus must desire something “for it to be a story,” suggests the narrator. And what’s better than wanting a “totally awesome shining purple spaceship capable of intergalactic travel”? The octopus must earn the spaceship, though—by building it out of stuff like glue, soda cans, and waffles. It’s hard to build a spaceship, and even if the octopus receives help from an adorable bunny, it may not quite end up working out. “By now, the octopus is starting to give up.” Mixing deadpan humor with whimsical, endearing characters, Tokuda-Hall spins a reader-friendly metanarrative out of a wickedly absurd premise. Filled with numerous shades of purple, yellow, and blue, Davies’ inspired digital artwork springs from the page, like bursts of an overactive imagination. Exaggerated facial expressions also incite laughs, including a spread of the octopus in a “despondent” swoon. Yet this story wraps up a little too neatly, throwing in a contrived, feel-good resolution. Incapable of building a spaceship, the discouraged octopus plays the ukulele, attracting a racially diverse crowd of music-loving rocket scientists. Too easy? Perhaps, but maybe that’s the point.

A perceptive how-to for beginner storytellers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7084-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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