GRASSHOPPER ON THE ROAD

A young fellow going down the road and running into a succession of sillies is a common folklore theme, but this isn't just another variation. In a few words Lobel's grasshopper hero is given not only common sense but an engaging, open attitude as well, and the creatures he encounters are not interchangeable comic numbskulls but representatives of different, familiar foibles. Among them are a group of beetles who form a club to celebrate morning, but won't tolerate a member who also enjoys afternoon and evening; a broom-wielding housefly who started by sweeping a speck on the rug and is determined not to stop "until the whole world is clean clean clean"; and a mosquito who is such a stickler for rules that he insists on Grasshopper crossing the lake in his boat, though his prospective passenger can easily jump across and doesn't fit in the boat. Later three butterflies, creatures of habit, wish to include visits with Grasshopper in their ludicrously rigid daily routine, but he answers: "I will be moving on. I will be doing new things." And when his pace is scorned by two dragonflies so intent on zipping speedily onward that they haven't time to view the scenery: "He was happy to be walking slowly down the road." You can trust Lobel to provide beginning readers with just a little more thought food than meets the eye—while just as gently pleasing the eye with his soft-toned, harmonious illustrations.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 1978

ISBN: 006444094X

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1978

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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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Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new...

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THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.

Living in a "domain" of glass, metal and cement at the Big Top Mall, Ivan sometimes forgets whether to act like a gorilla or a human—except Ivan does not think much of humans. He describes their behavior as frantic, whereas he is a peaceful artist. Fittingly, Ivan narrates his tale in short, image-rich sentences and acute, sometimes humorous, observations that are all the more heartbreaking for their simple delivery. His sorrow is palpable, but he stoically endures the cruelty of humans until Ruby the baby elephant is abused. In a pivotal scene, Ivan finally admits his domain is a cage, and rather than let Ruby live and die in grim circumstances, he promises to save her. In order to express his plea in a painting, Ivan must bravely face buried memories of the lush jungle, his family and their brutal murder, which is recounted in a brief, powerful chapter sure to arouse readers’ passions. In a compelling ending, the more challenging question Applegate poses is whether or not Ivan will remember what it was like to be a gorilla. Spot art captures poignant moments throughout.

Utterly believable, this bittersweet story, complete with an author’s note identifying the real Ivan, will inspire a new generation of advocates. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-199225-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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