The story should please those hopeful readers who are puppy-starved themselves, while the learning hidden within should set...

HENRY'S HEART

Tongue-in-cheek, label-happy humor reminiscent of Mélanie Watts abounds in Harper’s latest, a genius pairing of fiction and nonfiction.

Starting off with some X-ray views of a young boy and his heart, readers are presented with some facts and misconceptions about the human heart, made painless by the humorous speech-bubble asides from Henry’s sister and friends. One fact above all is emphasized—a healthy heart that pumps blood and removes waste requires exercise and proper nutrition. Therefore, Henry’s mother sends him outside for some fresh air, and his Dad invites him for a walk downtown…the fateful walk on which he first sees the love of his life. She sets his heart beating so wildly that the anthropomorphized organ has to ask Henry’s eyes what is going on to cause such a reaction. Leaving the puppy in the pet store seems to break poor Henry’s spirit—he can only mope in his room, while his heart bemoans the lack of exercise. Henry’s concerned parents finally consult a doctor, whose prescription pleases everyone, especially Henry’s exercise-starved heart. Harper’s acrylic-and-collage artwork with its filled-in stick figures is a perfect match for the irreverent humor of the text. From the amusing asides to the charts about healthy snacks and causes of rapid heartbeats, there will be few page turns unaccompanied by laughter.

The story should please those hopeful readers who are puppy-starved themselves, while the learning hidden within should set parents’ and educators’ hearts aflutter. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8989-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities.

THE ROCK FROM THE SKY

If Samuel Beckett had written an early reader, it might look something like this one.

In the first of five chapters, Klassen places his now-familiar turtle and armadillo (wearing bowler hats) on a minimalist gray/green landscape with one flower and—on the facing page—one plant. Personalities are revealed through occasional, slow movement across the gutter together with color-coded dialogue that feels as if it is being invented in the moment, sans script. Turtle is inflexible, not wanting to relocate, even when Armadillo moves farther away after a bad feeling about the space. It is only when Snake (sporting a beret) appears near the mammal that Turtle joins them—just in time: A huge asteroid falls on the vacated spot. Readers have watched it coming, suspense effectively building as they turn the pages. In subsequent episodes, Armadillo attempts to be helpful; miscommunication abounds; and Turtle is stubborn, proud, and jealous of the unspeaking snake, now near the rock: “I see how it is. Just enough room for two.” Turtle playing the martyr: “Maybe I will never come back.” As daylight turns into a striking, rose-tinged sunset and then a starlit evening, a life-zapping extraterrestrial (created previously in Armadillo’s futuristic forest fantasy) stalks Turtle. At the last minute, a second asteroid annihilates the creature. Klassen’s animals react to their seemingly absurd—but never tragic—universe with characteristically subtle, humorous postures and eye maneuvers. The weirdness of it all exerts its own attractive force, drawing readers back to it to wonder and ponder.

Waiting for Godot imagined for the playground population’s sensibilities. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1562-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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