THE UGLY DUCKLING

An absolutely drop-dead gorgeous edition of the beloved Andersen tale. Mitchell hews very closely to the language and cadences of the original: What this means is a measured and rich text, excellent for reading aloud if not for very young children. Johnson and Fancher make mixed-media and collage images of powerful beauty. Every page is spectacular—even the narrative pages have spot illustrations (large in this format) and background textures in green (which the text tells us is “good for the eyes”). A rather distracted mother duck notes that one egg looks different from the others, and hatches later. That “duckling” is so ugly that his siblings and all the other farm animals persecute it violently, until it runs away to spend the winter first in a tumbledown cottage and then on its own. When spring finally arrives, he recognizes himself in the magnificent white swans like the one he has become. The artists do wonderful things with texture: Feathers, water and grasses are made of collage bits that range from lace to marbled paper to paint to cloth. The pictures have great depth, not only in terms of perspective but in how they draw the eye and heart to pore over every detail. Simply exquisite. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7636-2159-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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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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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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