The Donkey Egg

Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, illus. by Janet Stevens. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-547-32767-9
Sisters and frequent collaborators Stevens and Crummel return to the setting of Tops & Bottoms, Stevens’s 1996 Caldecott Honor Book. Bear is still a magnificent creation, a velvety cantankerous slob with a ramshackle farm and perpetually untied wingtips. He’s easy prey for trickster Fox, who convinces Bear to pay $20 for a “donkey egg”—readers will see it’s really a watermelon—that will hatch into a farmhand who can help whip the place into shape. Instructed by Fox to keep the egg “warm, safe, and happy,” even if it takes “minutes, hours, days, weeks, months” to hatch, Bear reveals that he’s actually an old softy. Horton Hatches the Egg may immediately leap to mind, but this story has an appeal all its own, with the easygoing expansiveness of a backcountry raconteur. But the authors can’t leave well enough alone—they punctuate their narrative with “Did You Know?” text boxes that use chirpy factoids to illustrate the passage of time (“It takes about two minutes to brush your teeth!”). It feels like watching a storyteller being continually interrupted by a helicopter parent. Ages 4–7. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/05/2018
Release date: 02/19/2019
Genre: Children's
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