The Doctor Dolittle premise and kid-friendly setting don’t make up for pacing, plot, and writing weaknesses.



From the Zoe's Rescue Zoo series , Vol. 1

A girl who can talk to animals helps a lonely new arrival at the zoo.

Zoe Parker lives at her great-uncle’s Rescue Zoo, where her veterinarian mother doctors the animals that Great-Uncle Horace saves from bad situations the world over. But Zoe has a secret—ever since her sixth birthday, she’s been able to communicate with animals. The zoo’s run by Mr. Pinch (“If you ask me, this zoo needs more rules and less fun”). One third of the way in, the main plot finally starts with a rescued lion cub’s arrival. But the starving lion cub refuses to eat; Rory, as the Kenyan lion calls himself, is too sad and lonely from missing his family. Zoe chats with the zoo’s other lion—grumpy, anti-social Leonard—and learns that he’s pretty lonely too. Guessing that the two of them can solve each other’s loneliness, she persuades her mother to put them in adjacent enclosures. When controlling Mr. Pinch learns of this, he interferes to spite Zoe—an unlikely move. Zoe’s talent is never explained, and Cobb is overreliant on exclamation points to engage her readers. Williams depicts the human characters as white in her grayscale vignettes, often poorly reproduced. Kids wanting more Rescue Zoo stories need not wait: The Puzzled Penguin will be simultaneously released.

The Doctor Dolittle premise and kid-friendly setting don’t make up for pacing, plot, and writing weaknesses. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-84220-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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