An intriguing approach to learning a foreign language but rough around the edges: possibly of greatest interest to students...


An instructional tool for learning South African Sign Language is built around a distant cousin of “The Great Big Enormous Turnip.”

Presented optionally in English or Afrikaans, the standard cumulative storyline is reduced to a set of wooden cartoon tableaux in which a farming family is introduced, does chores, pulls a gigantic carrot (which only takes three screens) and, with help from the livestock, chows down. The text is likewise simplified and stilted—“The farmer’s wife feeds the chickens. The rooster is on the roof. The hen and her chicks peck at the mielies”—with verbs printed in a different color and nouns highlighted. Tapping separate icons activates an audio reading and a signed rendition in a small video screen in the corner. The two are not synchronized but can be run at once. Tapping highlighted nouns will prompt an audio pronunciation and, on the side, an identifying picture, a video signing and a hand-spelled diagram. Though SASL is based on American Sign Language, it is not the same, which limits the usefulness of this app and its several series mates on this side of the Atlantic. Moreover, along with being dull, the English text has several typos: “The carrot is to big!!” and other blunders should be corrected in an update.

An intriguing approach to learning a foreign language but rough around the edges: possibly of greatest interest to students of sign languages. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (iPad instructional/story app. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: Picsterbooks

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 40

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?