A tenderhearted book on overcoming fears.



“Pssst!” says Monty the little green frog. “Could you come here for a sec?” Immediately, readers are drawn in to a private conversation with the wide-eyed amphibian. “Can you keep a secret?”

Kang and Weyant, following up on their 2015 Geisel Award for You Are (Not) Small, have created this confession story as a constant dialogue between Monty and readers. Monty has a problem—a big problem—for a little frog. Thanks to the creature’s expressive eyes and innocent questions, young listeners will experience compassion in action. “What’s that?” Readers are asked in response to a presumed interaction. “You think I should tell someone? Like my parents? Are you sure?” It takes three tries for Monty to gather the courage to confess to Mom and Dad. The full arc of having a secret, keeping it hidden, and finding a way to get help is played out in this lighthearted story. The lime-green oval faces and big eyes of Monty and the adult frogs are the focus of every page, prioritizing the feelings of individuals. This little secret has grown into something huge and burdensome by keeping it hidden. And Monty becomes wiser by learning to conquer fear. Yet unfortunately, the title of this book is both misleading, as Monty never even utters these words, and nails-on-the-blackboard painful to grammarians.

A tenderhearted book on overcoming fears. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-239684-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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