Ham’s information and photos would have been much better served with a strictly nonfiction, non-rhyming format.



Along with companion Step Inside! A Look Inside Animal Homes (also 2012), a visually captivating but politically flawed peek into the world of fauna.

Both chronicle a fascinating array of 24 animals from a good mix of classes. In Step Inside!, most pages include several photos, allowing a glimpse of both the animal and its home, although a more wide-angled view would have given a better idea of the home in its surroundings. In addition, some animals are grouped together (“reef fish”), and the “homes” described are not accurate for the entire group. Open Wide! is the better of the two titles, although many opinions are worked into the factual poems. While Ham no doubt provides a few interesting facts about both animal homes and mouths, the delivery is ultimately flawed, the content sacrificed to the form. With rhyme schemes that change within the poems, words that don’t quite rhyme, rhythm that falters and a dearth of punctuation, these animal poems are difficult to read at best: “A turtle's mouth / Is different / It's not like mine or yours / First off, it has no teeth / But extremely hard, strong jaws.” Backmatter features a picture collage of 10 additional animal mouth/homes and an index.

Ham’s information and photos would have been much better served with a strictly nonfiction, non-rhyming format. (Informational poetry. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9832014-3-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: EarlyLight

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...


A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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