LITTLE BEAUTY

A lonely gorilla who has been taught sign language tells his keepers that he wants a friend. Not having another gorilla in the zoo, they gave him a kitten named Little Beauty, and most of the book depicts the ecstatic friendship between the tiny feline and the gargantuan gorilla. When the friends view King Kong on television, a movie so darkly at odds with the softhearted simian’s nature, he impulsively smashes the set. This act of violence almost leads the keepers to remove Beauty, until the kitten signs that she broke the television. No one renders primates with more faithful detail or surreal humanity than Browne. Here the pictures are made all the more affecting by the ironic juxtapositions of size (great and wee) and stylish gentility (primitive animal set against William Morris wallpapers). These are interrupted only at moments of extreme emotion, when the painstaking detail gives way to hastier line and more emphatic text. Young children may not know the visual King Kong reference, but the rest of the love story will need no explanation. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3959-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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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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THE POUT-POUT FISH

The pout-pout fish, painted a suitable blue, is so named for his perpetual gloom: “I’m a pout-pout fish / With a pout-pout face, / So I spread the dreary-wearies / All over the place.” When a jellyfish complains about his “daily scaly scowl,” the glum fish agrees, but says his mood isn’t up to him. A squid, dubbing the fish “a kaleidoscope of mope,” receives the same defeatist answer, as do other sea creatures. Up to this point, the story is refreshing in that readers will no doubt recognize the pout-pout fish in their own lives, and in many cases, there’s just no cheering these people up. But the plot takes a rather unpalatable turn when a shimmery girl fish kisses the gloomster right on his pouty mouth. With that kiss, he transforms into the “kiss-kiss fish” and swims around “spreading cheery-cheeries all over the place,” meaning that he starts to smooch every creature in sight. (Don’t try this at school, kids, you’ll get suspended!) Still, there’s plenty of charm here, both in the playful language (“hulky-bulky sulking!”) and in the winning artwork—Hanna’s cartoonish undersea world swims with hilarious bug-eyed creatures that ooze personality. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-36096-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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