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

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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