This silly story turns convention on its head, and kids who get the joke will surely giggle.


Hordes of puppies take over the town of Strictville, and no one knows how to react.

Strictville has a very bold motto: “All Work and No Play Makes for a Great Day!” So when a tiny puppy wanders into town, it is seen as a menace. No cuteness or play allowed! But things grow worse when more and more puppies come. The dark-skinned, female mayor with fantastic cat-eye glasses shouts, “We must get rid of these adorable creatures!” The townsfolk try everything: throwing sticks (the puppies just bring them back), chasing them (the puppies love the game), and feeding them (that is when the tail-wagging starts). Ultimately, they decide the safest place is indoors, and everyone runs home. Until the tiniest puppy, with the biggest eyes, catches the attention of a brown-skinned boy named Teddy. The entire multiracial town peers out in horror from their windows while Teddy dares to shake the pup’s tiny, fuzzy paw. It is…delightful! Strictville becomes not so strict after all. Smith’s cartoonish people pair well with the mock mass hysteria of a puppy invasion, her tidy streetscapes teeming with puppies appropriately Twilight Zone–esque. Hints of a new cute creature coming to town just may shake things up again.

This silly story turns convention on its head, and kids who get the joke will surely giggle. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-99917-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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