Wrapped in the chiaroscuro of film noir, kids will forget they are learning to read, focusing instead on the comic bits,...

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BABY MONKEY, PRIVATE EYE

In five chapters spanning almost 200 pages, Selznick—here working with husband Serlin—manages to do for the early reader what he accomplished with the picture book: reinvent it.

The narrative unfolds in finely wrought, crosshatched compositions drawn in pencil and introducing the color red to reward readers as they hunt for stolen objects alongside the pint-sized simian detective. Though he’s as successful as his hard-boiled, cinematic counterparts, Baby Monkey is still a youngster, so after each client arrives for consultation, he playfully peers through his magnifying glass, scribbles findings, nibbles snacks, and attempts to dress himself. This structure provides the repetition that, when paired with brief sentences, visual clues, a large typeface, and clear dialogue bubbles, serves the format extremely well. Impish expressions and oversized trousers will amuse the audience throughout each of the several-page wardrobe sequences. Preceding each knock on the door is an office “scene change” inviting viewers to analyze objects and predict the visitor’s identity; for example, and in a nod to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the iconic image from Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon heralds an astronaut. An oversized bonnet and dress shroud the final guest in mystery until the loving denouement. Not to be missed are the sendups of a bibliography and index, and adult readers will enjoy the visual keys to the clues planted in Baby Monkey’s office.

Wrapped in the chiaroscuro of film noir, kids will forget they are learning to read, focusing instead on the comic bits, persistence, and vulnerability of an endearing hero. (Early reader. 4-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-18061-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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