SMALL FLORENCE, PIGGY POP STAR

Alexander’s book is a pleasure to gaze upon. The artwork is sumptuous, like great dollops of ice cream, the colors bold in some instances, commingling with an eye for harmony in others, the line work fine and wiry. The story follows Florence, a young pig with big dreams of singing stardom but hog-tied by her shrinking-violet nature. She can barely manage a squeak when her mildly bullying older sisters, also singers, challenge her to show her stuff. When a TV singing contest comes to town, the older sisters try to grab the limelight but succumb to stage fright, while Florence belts out a winning tune from the audience. Despite the lovely French curves of music issuing from Florence’s snout, her sudden instinct to public warbling lacks any rationale. The story doesn’t turn on anything; without some imaginative impulse, the sisters’ balking and Florence’s newfound voice are airy contrivances. Still, the illustrations are of such quality as to nearly float the project by fashioning a narrative of their own. Florence caught in the spotlight is alone worth 1,000 carefully crafted words. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7455-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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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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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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