Though the factual information about Grant Wood is scanty, this fanciful story represents the power of friendship and the...

GRANT AND TILLIE GO WALKING

Loosely based on the life of Grant Wood, this is the story of the artist’s search for inspiration and his discovery that home—and a cow named Tillie—was all he needed to be happy.

Soft watercolors beautifully depict the rolling hillsides of rural Iowa, where Tillie is so content to live on a farm with her friend Grant that “at milking time, Tillie gave Grant gallons of frothy goodness.” He wants to be an artist, though, dreaming of being taken as seriously as French painters. Leaving Tillie behind, Grant travels to Paris in 1920. Smith’s illustrations nicely capture the Parisian art scene with broad strokes and open spaces, spaces that Wood occupies uneasily, with a beret and goatee that look pasted-on, an outsider who realizes that he needs to go home to paint what he loves. Meanwhile, a forlorn Tillie feels abandoned by her friend and walking companion, wasting away until they’re reunited. The book’s typeface is oddly small for the expansive illustrations and storyline, and it’s sometimes hard to read against the backdrop. A child might wonder why the artist’s eyes are invisible behind his eyeglasses, unlike the bespectacled man in Wood’s famous American Gothic, painted at the end of the story.

Though the factual information about Grant Wood is scanty, this fanciful story represents the power of friendship and the role of the familiar in the creative process.   (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-446-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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 good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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