Success comes in the unlikeliest places, so keep on keeping on.


In Alborozo’s curious—bordering on surreal—tale, a clown finds that attention is hard to grab these days.

A circus clown is doing his thing for the audience, teetering on three tippy chairs while balancing a vase of flowers and a ball on long poles. It’s good stuff, classic, but the clown finds that the circus-goers would rather watch Adele (she plays the accordion and a bass drum—simultaneously), Hercule the strongman, and Marguerite, who pulls lots and lots of hankies out of her top hat. Rejected and dejected, the acrobat leaves the circus and decides to set up shop in the local park. He juggles, does pratfalls and performs amazing feats of balance, but the kids pay him no attention. “The acrobat decided to feed the birds instead.” (Anything for an audience.) And lo, if you feed them, they will come, just like the baseball fans in Iowa. Soon the clown is covered head to toe with a swarm of multicolored little birds, and the kids find this pretty cool indeed. When he is just about to collapse under the birds’ weight, the clown does a great jumping jack, and the birds explode away in a dazzle of color and movement. Beat that, Marguerite and Hercule. The simple text, with its soupçon of existentialism, and the kooky artwork make this a flash of pleasure.

Success comes in the unlikeliest places, so keep on keeping on. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84643-634-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...


It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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