Despite believable action and attractive pictures, this feels more like an amusing anecdote than a full-fledged adventure.

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TIPTOP CAT

A Parisian tale inspired by a real-life feline.

An unnamed black-and-white cat is given to a (mostly unseen) girl as a gift. Balloons, ribbons and confetti suggest a birthday may be involved, but the focus shifts immediately to the cat as he inspects his new surroundings and makes himself at home. In a series of nearly wordless panels, he checks out cozy spots to nap, perch or hide and experiments with climbing. First it’s furniture (the bathroom sink, an armoire), then he ventures outside and jumps from the balcony to the neighboring roof and beyond. The cityscape reveals that the cat lives in Paris, which may or may not resonate with young readers, depending on whether they recognize the Eiffel Tower. A chance encounter with a pigeon results in an accident that wounds the cat’s pride and curbs his excursions until a second unexpected meeting with an avian interloper restores his sense of adventure. Small touches of humor reward careful observation. Mader’s use of multiple panels interspersed with double-page spreads provides a sense of momentum, but the brevity of the text can feel choppy, particularly when paired with the relatively static pastel illustrations.

Despite believable action and attractive pictures, this feels more like an amusing anecdote than a full-fledged adventure. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-14799-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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