Anti-book books are tricky, and this one doesn’t quite pull it off.

I DO NOT LIKE STORIES

A grouchy reader finally finds an appealing topic.

“I do not like stories about waking up in the morning,” begins the light-skinned, dark-haired grump. Once off to school, the child continues to enumerate every single kind of disliked story on the left side of the double-page spreads while the right-hand page shows the family’s cat having parallel experiences: upsetting a fruit cart when the child expresses disdain for stories about fruit, climbing a tree when the kid says, “I do not like stories about deep dark forests,” and reentering the apartment through a window as the child reviles “stories about going home.” Comic-book–style panels divide the action while the muted, blue-dominated palette and simple lines of the illustrations match the downcast tone of the story. The only break in the repetitive structure is when the kid says, “I do not like stories about monsters that hide behind closed doors,” and then, after a bewhiskered, spread-spanning “BOO,” says, “Just kidding! That’s no monster. That’s my cat.” The kid only concedes, at the end, the possibility of “lik[ing] a story about a cat.” The story has a pleasant, soothing rhythm, but it never manages to get anywhere interesting. There’s no insight into why the antihero is so pessimistic, and the cat’s side-plot adventures are too mundane to entertain or offer a counternarrative.

Anti-book books are tricky, and this one doesn’t quite pull it off. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77147-378-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Chilling in the best ways.

CREEPY CRAYON!

From the Creepy Tales! series

When a young rabbit who’s struggling in school finds a helpful crayon, everything is suddenly perfect—until it isn’t.

Jasper is flunking everything except art and is desperate for help when he finds the crayon. “Purple. Pointy…perfect”—and alive. When Jasper watches TV instead of studying, he misspells every word on his spelling test, but the crayon seems to know the answers, and when he uses the crayon to write, he can spell them all. When he faces a math quiz after skipping his homework, the crayon aces it for him. Jasper is only a little creeped out until the crayon changes his art—the one area where Jasper excels—into something better. As guilt-ridden Jasper receives accolade after accolade for grades and work that aren’t his, the crayon becomes more and more possessive of Jasper’s attention and affection, and it is only when Jasper cannot take it anymore that he discovers just what he’s gotten himself into. Reynolds’ text might as well be a Rod Serling monologue for its perfectly paced foreboding and unsettling tension, both gentled by lightly ominous humor. Brown goes all in to match with a grayscale palette for everything but the purple crayon—a callback to black-and-white sci-fi thrillers as much as a visual cue for nascent horror readers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Chilling in the best ways. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6588-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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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