This dead-bird story with a happy ending rewards children’s optimism

JOHNNY'S PHEASANT

When Johnny and Grandma come home one day from shopping, Johnny spies something near the roadside ditch.

They pull over and discover it is a pheasant with beautiful feathers. Johnny says it’s sleeping; Grandma notes that it’s “still soft.” Johnny says he’ll make a nest and care for it. Grandma suspects that it has been run over by a car and says she could use its feathers in her crafting, but Johnny rejoins, “Silly Grandma, he’s not ready for craftwork, he’s sleeping.” As they are putting the pheasant in the trunk of the car, Johnny mimics its cry, saying, “Hoot! Hoot!” After settling the pheasant at home in the box, the pheasant awakens. Confused, it flies and lands on top of Grandma’s head—much to her surprise—and then escapes out of a window. Before it returns to the wild (Johnny accuses Grandma of scaring it away with talk of crafting), the pheasant leaves behind a surprise for Johnny. Minnema (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) maintains a deft balance of perspective between generations in this quietly funny tale. Both Johnny’s enthusiasm and optimism and Grandma’s pragmatism are fully believable—any child who has found a dead or injured animal will relate. Flett’s (Cree-Métis) characteristically spare illustrations depict this tender relationship, careful details such as Grandma’s game of solitaire further developing these loving Indigenous characters.

This dead-bird story with a happy ending rewards children’s optimism . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0501-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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