Budding aquaculturists will enjoy this tale of friendship from a fish-eye view.



Aquarium life is anything but boring…it’s “FAB!”

Five orange fish named Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike meet in a pet shop; a little girl takes them home and plops them in a tank. There is something for everyone in the tank: gravel, diver, rock, pirate ship, bubbles…oh, and a snail no one cares much about. Their days consist of swimming and gulping and smacking kisses at the little girl (depicted with light brown skin and straight, black hair). Until tank cleaning day! After the indignities of being stuck in a bowl, the tank and everything in it is clean! Fab! It gets even better: “PLOP!” In drops a clownfish; he’s so funny! And then: “PLOP!” In drops an angelfish; she’s so beautiful! Then comes the fairy castle! “It is enchanting. / It is ornamental. / It is exotic. / It is … // A TRAP!” Lenny gets stuck in the door. Who can save him? None of the fish…but the snail no one cares for has an idea! Rylant’s perky exploration of pet fish life is delightfully enthusiastic and dotted with onomatopoeia. The appealing fish (and snail) are surprisingly expressive in Austin’s digitally created illustrations, which incorporate much of the text in large, capital collaged-in letters. The illustrations of aquarium life from the inside are cartoony and bright and resemble a mix of collage and watercolor.

Budding aquaculturists will enjoy this tale of friendship from a fish-eye view. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4523-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)


Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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