Norman’s rocking rump and hula dance are quite the highlights—it’s a language everyone can understand.

NORMAN, SPEAK!

In this picture-book debut, novelist Adderson (Jasper John Dooley: Not in Love, 2014, etc.) provides an affectionate look into the surprises of bringing home a new pet.

It’s a familiar scene for many families: A young boy and his parents adopt a dog from the animal shelter. Overwhelmed by the choices, the boy wishes he could take home every forlorn-looking pup. He decides that he’ll choose a stray, Norman, that has been there the longest. The pup has a stump of a tail, and his wag is “a hula dance of happiness.” At home, the boy encourages Norman to do the usual canine things, like sit or speak. Norman, however, doesn’t understand, and the boy figures that Norman just isn’t very smart. But intelligence is deceiving. Through an encounter with another pet owner, the boy discovers that Norman understands Chinese (Mandarin), not English. (“Norman! Why didn’t you say so?” scolds the boy.) Pet lovers will appreciate this family’s lighthearted journey toward making this relationship succeed. As an added bonus, readers can learn or brush up on their Mandarin, giving an original twist to the story. Leng’s illustrations in ink on paper add heart with warm pastel hues. The simple and clean facial expressions convey emotions with the right touch, from puzzlement to complete joy.

Norman’s rocking rump and hula dance are quite the highlights—it’s a language everyone can understand. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-322-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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