Flamboyant illustrations, unexpected adventures, and larger-than-life characters anchor this zany read-aloud.

GLADYS THE MAGIC CHICKEN

A ravenous chicken leads the humans of the Ancient Times on a riotous romp.

Gladys begins her life as a dancing chicken living on a mountain with a Shepherd Boy, but her knack for being in the right place at the right time launches her on an incredible adventure. Touted as a magical wish-granting chicken, Gladys is spoiled, stolen, gifted, and bartered, until she finds her unlikely way home. Maybe Gladys is magical, maybe not, but either way, there’s no doubt that few chickens have led such an exciting life as she! Written with a cheeky tone, this offbeat story puts a modern spin on exaggerated archetypal characters known only by their capitalized titles, including a Traveling Merchant, the Brave Swordsman, the Learned Princess, and the Fearsome Pirate. An unnamed narrator adds humor that will appeal to elementary-age kids as well as adults. “Ancient Times” dialogue set on unfurling scrolls adds another comedic layer—as does Gladys’ penchant for “plooping” out an egg when faced with a surprise. Gladys’ rainbow-tinted plumage is set off by equally vibrant background hues. The painterly illustrations mix full- and double-page art with smaller, sequential artwork to achieve a cinematic effect. Melodramatic facial expressions and body language bring the characters, depicted with a range of skin tones, hair colors, and body types, to life. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Flamboyant illustrations, unexpected adventures, and larger-than-life characters anchor this zany read-aloud. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32560-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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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 brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound.

HOW TO CATCH A GINGERBREAD MAN

From the How To Catch… series

The titular cookie runs off the page at a bookstore storytime, pursued by young listeners and literary characters.

Following on 13 previous How To Catch… escapades, Wallace supplies sometimes-tortured doggerel and Elkerton, a set of helter-skelter cartoon scenes. Here the insouciant narrator scampers through aisles, avoiding a series of elaborate snares set by the racially diverse young storytime audience with help from some classic figures: “Alice and her mad-hat friends, / as a gift for my unbirthday, / helped guide me through the walls of shelves— / now I’m bound to find my way.” The literary helpers don’t look like their conventional or Disney counterparts in the illustrations, but all are clearly identified by at least a broad hint or visual cue, like the unnamed “wizard” who swoops in on a broom to knock over a tower labeled “Frogwarts.” Along with playing a bit fast and loose with details (“Perhaps the boy with the magic beans / saved me with his cow…”) the author discards his original’s lip-smacking climax to have the errant snack circling back at last to his book for a comfier sort of happily-ever-after.

A brisk if bland offering for series fans, but cleverer metafictive romps abound. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-0935-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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