Delightfully imparts the joy and discovery of reading—and many chuckles and guffaws.


Lemmings don’t jump off cliffs; someone just needs to tell the lemmings.

Foxy, a crew member aboard the aptly named S.S. Cliff (a container ship that happens to be a whale), reads a fascinating book about lemmings. The book says that lemmings do not jump off cliffs. But when Foxy relates this tidbit to Capt. PB (presumably short for “Polar Bear”), three stubby little lemmings hear the word “jump” and gleefully throw themselves overboard. “Jump? I’ll jump!” / “Me too!” / “Ditto!” Foxy fishes them out and urges them to read the book so they can see for themselves that lemmings do not jump off cliffs. “Jump? I’ll jump!” / “Me too!” / “Ditto!” Off they go, over the side. “I don’t think they read the book,” Capt. PB says ruefully. After a few more foolish leaps, each one more perilous than the next (“Sinking! Sinking fast!” / “Me too!” / “Glub!”), Foxy realizes the lemmings cannot read. He works with them until they can all comprehend the most important words in the book: “Lemmings DON’T jump off cliffs,” (earning a thumbs-up from curmudgeon Capt. PB). OHora applies his customary matte paints to his Arctic Ocean scenes, peach skies, teal seas, and white icebergs dominating the backgrounds. Foxy and Capt. PB make convincing if fuzzy tars, the lemmings look like tribbles with faces and stubby little legs, and it’s nice to see a real working vessel in a picture book.

Delightfully imparts the joy and discovery of reading—and many chuckles and guffaws. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-34348-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


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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