illus. by Richard Watson. 32p. Tiger Tales. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781589251557.
PreS-Gr 2—Cupcake Wood, full of flowers, music, pink bunnies, and other frolicking wildlife, oozes with glee. The opening spread of happiness contains only one noticeable snag. Scowl the owl sits in a tree on the labeled "Grumpy Branch," with his back to readers and a black cloud over his head. The other animals try to cheer him up throughout the story with gifts, songs, and cuddles, but he wants no part of this saccharine sweetness. Even his speech bubbles are black. When Scowl realizes his actions have truly upset a little bird, he does what he can to rectify the situation, including apologizing, but in the end he won't try to be something he's not. The animals finally ask what would make him happy, and Scowl lets them know: "'Being grumpy!' he said, 'It's great fun!'" Bright, cartoon illustrations with wide-eyed creatures convey the proper spirit for a place called "Cupcake Wood," and the exaggerated contrast between happy and grumpy should amuse young listeners. This story begins to explore the idea of embracing one's own feelings and moods while extending some empathy and acceptance toward those of others.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
"It was a dreamy, sunbeamy day in Cupcake Wood." So begins this gentle, gutsy parody of twee children's books about frolicsome woodland animals. Here, owl Scowl is so grouchy that he says "Get lost!" when someone gives him something, which ultimately leads him to experience an unfamiliar emotion: empathy. Watson subtly mocks animal cute-ification without insulting fans of the genre.

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