As Bill the Cat would say, “Ack.” (Picture book. 4-8)

THE BILL THE CAT STORY

A BLOOM COUNTY EPIC

An all-new Bill the Cat origin story helps relaunch Bloom County.

Eight years after Pete & Pickles (2008), Breathed’s last picture book, the cartoonist returns to well-trod material in what seems to be the hope of attracting the attention of parents who grew up with his comic strip. In search of a best friend, a white boy named Binkley instantly bonds with a kitty at the Pedigree Schmedigree Animal Shelter. Unfortunately, Bill is already bound for a life as a sled cat in the snowy North Pole. From there, he wanders the globe with little logic, making his mark on the megafauna of the savanna, cat worshippers, and earthling-abducting extraterrestrials, until he is finally delivered to his waiting boy. The scene periodically shifts to a lonely Binkley and Opus the penguin. Filled with copious visual gags and an all-white cast (even, apparently, the cat worshippers that build like the Egyptians and dress in stereotypical Middle Eastern garb), the book is an extended ode to Bloom County as a “Simpler Time, Kinder Place.” As a product, the book has a frantic energy that makes it a perfectly decent gift for those adults who have long missed the antics of Binkley, Opus, and the rest, but it will mean little and be of even less interest to actual child readers.

As Bill the Cat would say, “Ack.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-54662-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Hee haw.

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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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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