cover image Little Donkey and the Birthday Present

Little Donkey and the Birthday Present

Rindert Kromhout, , illus. by Annemarie van Haeringen, trans. from the Dutch by Marianne Martens. . NorthSouth, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7358-2132-3

The hero of the beguilingly offbeat Little Donkey and the Baby-sitter returns with a real dilemma on his hooves: he covets the red kite with the "long, long tail" that he picked out as a birthday present for his friend Jackie the yak. But no matter how Little Donkey tries to maneuver the kite into his own toy collection (he even claims the kite is lost when it's really tucked under his covers) he can't outfox Mama Donkey. "That's very sweet of you," she says when Little Donkey pointedly picks a bouquet of flowers for Jackie on the way to the party. "But you're still giving him the kite." Author and artist make both the yearnings and scams of their little protagonist utterly authentic and thoroughly sympathetic. Kromhout's direct, descriptive prose acknowledges that his young audience is more than capable of filling in the emotional tumult and humor that lurks beneath the words ("Little Donkey was sad that it wasn't his birthday. He changed his mind about giving the kite to Jackie. He'd rather keep it. He'd give him something else"). Haeringen's understated rendering style portrays characters who are poignant but never cloying, and her saturated splashes of color add just the right amount of visual and emotional punctuation to the distilled environments. Children will instantly identify with (and probably admire) Little Donkey's stratagems, but down deep they'll also be reassured by Mama Donkey's loving, knowing firmness. Ages 3-up. (Mar.)