APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS!

It's evident some things run in the family for the legendary Punxsutawney Phil's niece Phyllis. The little groundhog only needs one sniff of the morning air to realize something’s amiss the day of the Spring Treasure Hunt. Though it is the first of April, Phyllis earnestly warns everyone of the impending blizzard. Her cries fall on deaf ears as the suspicious rodents turn pranksters. Phil Junior sticks his paws in ice to replicate winter’s grueling chill, and Pete throws confetti in the air to resemble snowflakes. Poor Phyllis initially believes their pranks. Without heeding the young forecaster’s warnings, the groundhogs begin the hunt, with dramatic riddles showcasing each clue. When the celebration dissolves into a wintry mess, Phyllis both solves the mystery and guides her group home through the blustery wind. References to the "treasure" repeatedly shine in the home’s interior. Warm acrylics, saturated in rich golden tones and creamy tans, offer a cozy look into this furry family’s den. Layered strokes enhance the textured fur of each stocky animal. Funny details abound: A glimpse of The Woodchuck Weekly newspaper reads: “Shadows! Why do they scare us?” An author’s note describes international April Fool traditions, though there’s no source notes provided. No fooling—here's a lighthearted romp that highlights an often overlooked holiday. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2270-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent.

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THEY ALL SAW A CAT

Wouldn’t the same housecat look very different to a dog and a mouse, a bee and a flea, a fox, a goldfish, or a skunk?

The differences are certainly vast in Wenzel’s often melodramatic scenes. Benign and strokable beneath the hand of a light-skinned child (visible only from the waist down), the brindled cat is transformed to an ugly, skinny slinker in a suspicious dog’s view. In a fox’s eyes it looks like delectably chubby prey but looms, a terrifying monster, over a cowering mouse. It seems a field of colored dots to a bee; jagged vibrations to an earthworm; a hairy thicket to a flea. “Yes,” runs the terse commentary’s refrain, “they all saw the cat.” Words in italics and in capital letters in nearly every line give said commentary a deliberate cadence and pacing: “The cat walked through the world, / with its whiskers, ears, and paws… // and the fish saw A CAT.” Along with inviting more reflective viewers to ruminate about perception and subjectivity, the cat’s perambulations offer elemental visual delights in the art’s extreme and sudden shifts in color, texture, and mood from one page or page turn to the next.

A solo debut for Wenzel showcasing both technical chops and a philosophical bent. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5013-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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