The Littles are a staid lot, formal to a fault. When they deign to let a dog into their house, there will be rules. Papa wants the dog, Sally Dog Little (“They never call her Sally for short. Formal families are not fond of ‘for short’ ”), to bark only at burglars; Mama wants her to attend her thrice-daily walks; little Twinkle Little wants her to sleep on her bed at night. Sally abides, until one day a pair of ghost pirates breezes into the house. Sally lets loose a howl. The Littles come running, but can’t see the ghosts. They admonish Sally: “If this happens again, you will have to go.” Sally realizes the ghosts must leave—if they stay she may well give an inadvertent bark—so she queries them as to their intentions. The pirates, Swiggity Jim and his dog Needles, inform Sally they are on their way to the place that ghosts go, but they need a piece of treasure to get there. That treasure, they say, might well be buried under the oak tree out back. That night they dig up a great treasure chest—“Har, har,” says Swiggity—but all Swiggity and Needles want is the map contained therein, leaving the treasure to Sally, telling her to help herself and then bury what remains for someone else to find. Sally grabs what most fetches her fancy—a big bone, obviously once the pearl in Needles’s eye—and buries the rest. The Littles are no wiser, nor, it seems, will they ever be to life’s strange pleasures. A well-told tale that tweaks the Littles enough you’d think some of their stuffing might fall out, and illustrated with the bright edginess of a Lane Smith, exaggerated to a fare-thee-well. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2002

ISBN: 1-55037-759-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002

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Hee haw.

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


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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