Meet Toby, an adorable beagle who constantly endears himself to his owner despite the fact that Toby won’t cooperate with her plans to teach him a trick . . . any trick. Toby is great at normal dog things—he eats messily, knocks things over, and scratches with the best of them, but ask him to fetch, roll over, or beg, and he’ll look at his owner with a befuddled and perplexed expression. The narrator bemoans the fact that her friends’ dogs shake hands, bring in the newspaper, and dance—Michael’s French poodle even plays soccer. But Toby’s owner never gives up. She tries talking to Toby in several foreign languages (in case a language barrier has been the problem all along) and even talks to him in dog: “woof awooooo ark ark grrff ruff!” Nothing works though, so she just goes back to saying “sit” several times a day. Finally, one day, Toby comes through and . . . yes . . . sits! In a funny double-page spread in which Toby takes up most of the two pages, the text reads simply “Toby sat!” Toby’s owner is happy, but keeps things in perspective—she’ll always love Toby even if he never learns another trick. Toby is a lovable and goofy dog in the tradition of Martha in Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh or Boodil My Dog by Pija Lindenbaum. The illustrations are charmingly and humorously done in watercolors, acrylics, and pen and ink. A thoroughly delightful story by the authors of the also delightful Trashy Town (1999). (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-202014-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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