A welcome addition to the early-reader shelf.

MONKEY AND ELEPHANT

Odd couples abound in early readers (see Mo Willems’ Gerald and Piggie, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad, Wong Herbert Yee’s Mouse and Mole, to name a few), but there’s room for Monkey and Elephant, too.

The eponymous characters try “to rest under the afternoon sun,” but it’s too hot, so they go in search of shade. Over the course of a journey initially fraught with bickering, they quickly resolve problems and even end up cheerily singing together. In chapter three, they mistake a distant group of wild cats for a cluster of shade trees, but Elephant handily defends Monkey when they say they want to eat her. “How about…you guys have DUST CAKE for snack today?” he responds, scuffing up the ground. Accompanying digital art shows the striped cats sitting stunned into submission, their eyes looking upward to an off-stage Elephant—though dust clouds are absent, diminishing the drama. There’s a Horton-esque quality about Bernstein’s Elephant throughout, and both he and Monkey exude personality. This achievement in visual characterization is matched by Schaefer’s text, which employs controlled word choices and embeds careful repetition in support of the emerging reader.

A welcome addition to the early-reader shelf. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4840-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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