Poor science and poor storytelling make for a poor combination.




Porcupine’s picnic grows ever larger as new animals arrive with their own food choices until an unexpected guest alters the camaraderie.

Eager to share his basket full of clover, Porcupine learns that each of his friends has a preference. Koala likes eucalyptus leaves. Squirrel sticks with acorns. Giraffe snacks on tree leaves, Goat enjoys alfalfa, and Elephant chews on tree bark. The gathering grows with a dizzying assortment of herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores: Chicken, Panda, Reindeer, Zebra, Baboon, Anteater, Black Bear, Bald Eagle, Toad, and Weasel all politely ask to join and provide a sampling of their food selections. Digital art depicts an amiable atmosphere, its characters appearing flat and unnaturally sweet. None of the meat-eating animals seem at all tempted by their companions until Tiger appears, declaring his dinner choice (everyone) and causing the rest to scatter in all directions. The repetitious, sometimes-tedious text diligently samples a worldwide list of animals from all three eating groups, as outlined in the author’s note. The simplistic story cannot, of course, accurately represent the specificity of most of these animals’ diets, and the fact that their habitats vary wildly is elided.

Poor science and poor storytelling make for a poor combination. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4677-9519-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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