Great story idea, beautiful and well-functioning graphics—but mildly lacking in delivery.



A child lies in bed contemplating what various nighttime sounds might be.

Lights are switched off, no one else is around and strange noises fuel an already-jumpy imagination. In this story, the protagonist hears assorted sounds and imagines numerous dangers and crises. Perhaps there’s a wild animal loose, and the police are chasing it. There's been an earthquake—but rescuers are on the way. Each presumption is fueled by everyday sounds, including a passing motorcycle, a whistling teakettle and footsteps on stairs. Each disruption is introduced by an image of what is really making the noise, followed by the protagonist’s ever-more-bloodshot eyes staring out of the dark; his thoughts appear as sentences that curl around his eyes, so he is literally surrounded by his fears. The story clearly demonstrates that many fears are silly conjectures that have no basis in fact. It’s likely to spawn conversations about being afraid of the dark—or anything, for that matter. Native English speakers may find the narrator’s heavy accent distracting (she refers to a “wild and hang-ry animal,” talks rapidly and even sounds downright sultry at times). The story can be narrated or read in English, Spanish or Italian, and the read- and record-it-myself options include original sound effects. Marionette-like characters, well-crafted animation and angled, floating text add significant graphic appeal. There’s even a painting feature that allows creations to be emailed directly from the iPad.

Great story idea, beautiful and well-functioning graphics—but mildly lacking in delivery. (iPad storybook app. 4-9)

Pub Date: June 17, 2011


Page Count: -

Publisher: Zentric

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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