Fans of the illustrator’s previous works (and theater) will forgive the flaws in favor of the electrifying compositions;...

THE CHANDELIERS

Kirsch applies his ornate flourishes to a troupe of giraffes in this tale of theatrical entrances and exits.

Each member of the world-renowned Chandelier family is featured in a pre–title-page cameo during which their extensive experience is highlighted—except for young Rufus. Not yet old enough to perform, he nevertheless proves his worth as the show unfolds. Ever the resourceful stagehand, he swings in on a trapeze to cue his father, camouflages himself with topiary to walk a parasol out to his mother, and brings up the rear in his brother’s horse costume. There are humorous visual details in the bustling watercolor-and-line compositions, and children will enjoy searching for the tiny mouse wearing a giraffe costume in every scene. Ultimately, however, the narrative loses steam. By the time Rufus is making thunder and lifting the moon, he and readers are just going through the motions to get to the end. The climax perpetuates the pattern: The busy hero casts a shadow monster and turns on the lights when they mysteriously dim, but the lack of actual drama, the static pace and the uneven writing yield waning interest.

Fans of the illustrator’s previous works (and theater) will forgive the flaws in favor of the electrifying compositions; those seeking true conflict or emotional connections should look elsewhere. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-39898-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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