It would be rare for a story that depends so thoroughly on establishing empathetic connection to succeed as a picture-book...

READ REVIEW

BLACK BEAUTY

The classic story retold in an abbreviated picture-book version.

Sewell’s original Black Beauty, first published in 1877, tells the story of a carriage horse’s life from the horse’s point of view. The impact of the original lies in Black Beauty’s heart-rending narration as he describes his life as a work animal, often suffering due to the neglect and, in some cases, deliberate cruelty of his various owners. While Brown’s retelling retains Black Beauty as narrator and stays true to the main plot points of the original story, the emotional tug is missing, and it reads rather like a dispassionate summary. To be fair, it is hard to see how pathos—the essential strength of Sewell’s original—could be generated in the succinct, 32-page format. Brown’s superb illustrations, however, more than carry their weight. Each double-page spread illuminates the setting of 19th-century England and gives the story an ambiance and luxuriousness that the spare text lacks. The faux marbled endpapers are a nice period touch, as is the information about Sewell included on the endpapers.

It would be rare for a story that depends so thoroughly on establishing empathetic connection to succeed as a picture-book adaptation, and this one doesn’t, but the illustrations provide such a sumptuous visual feast that it is most assuredly worth perusing. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5124-1619-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

THE DINKY DONKEY

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more