Ultimately, Samson is appealingly offbeat but not quite the big star that he aspires to be.



A flea strongman leaves the small circus where he has been performing in search of greater fame and fortune.

The eponymous Samson is a big draw at Fleabag’s Circus. Although he’s clearly adored by his colleague, Amelie, and appreciated by audiences, readers are told that he feels “empty,” so he sets off in search of broader horizons and bigger audiences. Shadowed by a bee wearing a pirate hat and polka-dot pants, Samson pursues his dreams only to find that reaching them doesn’t make him happier. A wild ride on a shaggy red dog (with a little help from the bee) leads him home again. Sly humor abounds, much of it in the brightly colored, retro-styled illustrations. There are clever costumes: Samson’s leopard-spotted pants (echoed on the endpapers) and high-top sneakers, for example, and the balloon bug’s French-mime striped shirt and beret. The funniest detail—one that’s pivotal to the plot—is the larger stage upon which Samson eventually performs: a human strongman’s head. Unfortunately, the text is not as successful. It bumps along, sometimes rhyming, sometimes not, with little internal logic. Neither Samson’s initial hollowness nor his change of heart is particularly convincing and likely won’t have much meaning for young listeners.

Ultimately, Samson is appealingly offbeat but not quite the big star that he aspires to be. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-8123-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.


Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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