FRANK

This helpful little bear is such a good Samaritan that he’s always late for school.

Frank looks jaunty in his jeans and puffy down vest. He’s a happy young bear, but he’s easily distracted. He arrives for his first day of school after all the other children have gone home. Whether it’s helping to rescue a frightened kitten stuck in a tree or stopping to bust some moves in a dance-off, he can’t bear to keep going on his way. As the days go by, things get progressively a little better. By the fourth day, he arrives before lunch, during snack time—but not before having stopped to investigate “a shrieking squeak” and “a terrible stink.” Just outside the school, there was a big green ogre bullying a family of rabbits. Frank’s rescue of the bunnies results in his arriving covered in that terrible stink. On the fifth day, Frank arrives mere seconds after the bell rings. But school stops abruptly when a giant zombie lizard king breathes fire just outside the classroom window. Everyone else wants to flee, but Frank manages to make friends with the lizard. After that, he is never late again…maybe. The impish illustrations have great quirky appeal, but the story lacks even an inner logic—children will get hung up in the chronology, if nothing else—and has a murky message.

Zany but forgettable. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5423-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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