With a deft minimalism recalling Charles Schultz or Mo Willems, Browne creates a character to care about, whether excavating...

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MARLO

A pit bull transforms a simple bath into an underwater epic in Browne’s picture-book debut.

Marlo’s early appearances are rear views as he runs off the page, then digs up the garden. Finally he rests, a red flower comically planted on his head while he gazes quizzically at readers. Brief sentences and pen-and-watercolor images on generous white backgrounds create a seemingly tidy narrative as the bath begins—a contrast with Marlo’s imagined aquatic adventures. Ensconced in a claw-foot tub, rubber duck at his side, the dog catches a wave into colorful, full-bleed compositions depicting exotic plant life and sea creatures. Words disappear. When the duck is catapulted into the deep, his owner dons scuba gear. Children will enjoy the challenging hide-and-seek game that follows in the swirls of pattern and movement. The tension generated as Marlo is pursued by a shark and swallowed by a whale is relieved in the mammal’s belly when good-hearted penguins, partying in an underwater galleon, rescue Marlo and introduce him to their admiral, who has protected the beloved object. As with all good fantasies, the homecoming reveals clues that connect to the journey. This one also leads to laughter.

With a deft minimalism recalling Charles Schultz or Mo Willems, Browne creates a character to care about, whether excavating at home or when plunged into the pleasures and perils of the wider world. Dripping with delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-244113-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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