Design, engineering, and art intersect to deliver a virtuoso interpretation of the pitfalls and pleasures of triads.


While Idle’s previous titles (Flora and the Flamingo, 2013, etc.) feature her young, white dancer with a single avian partner, this story presents a pas de trois.

The challenge, therefore, is how to manage balance: on the stage, across a double-page spread, among friends. The choreography creates the narrative in this wordless performance, with opportunities for audience participation via flaps. In the opening scene, a fan-wielding Flora poses alone; the peacocks are paired. Wispy willow branches form a proscenium arch atop the extravagant white backdrop. The dancers are arrayed in coordinated teal and green splendor with yellow highlights. When one bird crosses the gutter, a dance ensues on the verso, a drama on the recto. The birds’ parallel symmetry is now inverted: the partners reach up, the lone peacock disdainfully displays downward. As Flora plants a foot on each page, readers decide whether to make tails match or contrast. They are also the agents for a tug of war over the fan. Idle’s nuanced postures and expressions capture the peacocks’ wounded pride perfectly. When the fragile prop breaks in a climactic close-up, the despondent protagonist stalks off the page. The birds find a solution, and a glorious gatefold, measuring 18 by 33 inches, puts a joyful Flora at the center of a dazzling and harmonious display.

Design, engineering, and art intersect to deliver a virtuoso interpretation of the pitfalls and pleasures of triads. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-3816-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


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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