NOBODY RIDES THE UNICORN

This modern fairy tale tells the story of a fearful and paranoid king who summons the gentlest girl in the kingdom to trap a unicorn in order to kill it for his own selfish purposes. The king of Joppardy, convinced that his enemies are out to poison him, follows the advice of his councilor Doctor Slythe, who tells the king that there is only one solution—the king must drink from a goblet and eat with utensils made from a unicorn’s horn. The nefarious Slythe, dressed all in black and looking thoroughly evil, also advises the king that there is only one way to catch the elusive unicorn—a quiet young girl with a gentle voice must call to it. Zoe, the quietest girl in the land, and an orphan who is considered a nobody, is sent for and unsuspectingly invites the unicorn into the open. All of a sudden, hunters and hunting dogs intrude upon the idyllic scene and capture the beautiful beast. Zoe, furious that she’s been deceived and determined to make it right, sneaks into the palace gardens and frees the animal. Incensed that the little girl has bested him, the king banishes her. But Zoe finds her way into the secret valley of the unicorns: a magical and welcoming land that certainly will be more of a home to her than Joppardy ever was. Beautiful, soft illustrations mostly in earth colors, but interjected with jewel tones and interesting design make this a visually compelling book. Details in the illustrations—an animal hidden in the bush, topiaries in the shape of whales—encourage the reader to look again and again at the enticing pictures. One jarring, anachronistic note, though—on the opening page, the illustration shows a car on the road to the medieval-looking palace, marring the timeless, otherworldly feel of the book. And the name of the kingdom ineluctably makes one think of the popular game show. Despite these minor quibbles, this will certainly please the unicorn crowd and will be a popular read-aloud. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-11204-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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