One might expect that the creator of Frog and Toad could, if he chose, give us fables with some subtlety and psychological depth. But there's not a jot of wit, wisdom, style, or originality in these 20 flat and predictable items. The illustrations could be animal companions to the human figures for Gregory Griggs (1978), Lobel's nursery rhyme collection; but these suffer for having less to illustrate. Lobel begins with the static portrait of a foolish crocodile, who prefers the patterned flowers on his bedroom wallpaper to the tangled profusion of his wife's real garden. And so? He simply stays in bed and turns "a very pale and sickly shade of green." Even the moral is redundant: "Without a doubt there is such a thing as too much order." The third fable is another platitude in story form: a little Beetle topples an imperious Lion King who demands respect. "If you look at me closely you will see that I am making a bow," says the Beetle, whereupon King Lion bends over and, top-heavy with jeweled crown and medals, loses his balance. Meanwhile, in the second entry, Lobel has added a twist of sorts, possibly for a joke; but it's counterproductive. It starts out with two duck sisters arguing about whether they will go to the pond by their usual route or try something new. "This road makes me feel comfortable. I am accustomed to it," says one. We're set up for a confrontation between the stodgy and the venturesome, right? But then instead of confirming, modifying, or exposing the expected conclusion, Lobel fudges the issue: a fox, who knows their habits, is waiting to bag them on their regular route. Moral: "At times, a change of routine can be most healthful." In another fable, Lobel evokes Aesop with a crane inviting a pelican to tea, only to set forth a cautionary lesson in table manners. (And the consequence of messy pelican's bad ones is merely that he isn't invited back.) All of which serves to confirm Lobel's moral for his story of "The Frogs at the Rainbow's End": "The highest hopes may lead to the greatest disappointments.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 1980

ISBN: 0064430464

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1980

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.


A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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