At points, this book is hilariously funny, but for those who aren’t fans of wordplay, this might be a pun-ishing read.



The late author and her collaborators create, combine, and reimagine a batch of spirited new animals from A to Z.

Packed full of invented punny and portmanteau animalgamations such as the “kangarude,” a golden marsupial with tongue out and eyes narrowed, cavalierly kicking over the letter K, the book presents a bevy of oddball beasts to accompany each letter. Every critter has its own unorthodox name, look, or point of emphasis in the word, such as the blushing, naked “polar bare” or a “lobster” that lobs an L. Readers will smirk at many of the funny combinations, but the humor is hard-won, as deciphering the clever names and underlying meanings, while supremely satisfying, is also labor-intensive. Those with more sophisticated vocabularies may fully parse the names, but obscure references, such as the “macawbre,” a macaw dressed in a Poe-inspired coat, will likely fly right over many readers’ heads. Using the letters as props for their antics, wildly peculiar, primitively drawn animals dash across the page, setting a zany tone. The potent primary colors, scribbly, smudgy textures, and lack of outlines constraining the creatures all contribute to the free-wheeling feel. Boldt’s images, such as a “hippotomess” surrounded by melted ice-cream and fast food wrappers, give useful clues about how to interpret the animal’s name.

At points, this book is hilariously funny, but for those who aren’t fans of wordplay, this might be a pun-ishing read. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9205-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.


From the Fly Guy series

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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