Plot holes may mar the story a bit, but there’s plenty to dig anyway.

MORRIS MOLE

Morris strikes out on his own in this story about an anthropomorphic, iconoclast mole.

Smaller than the rest and clad in a dapper suit rather than miners’ gear, Morris Mole’s suggestion falls on deaf ears when he voices an idea to improve his fellow moles’ lot. While his brothers’ focus is on digging ever deeper underground to find scarce food, Morris Mole decides to tunnel up through the earth. “I may be small, but I can do big things,” he tells himself as he digs deep within himself to find courage. When he emerges aboveground he finds a wonderland of not only food, but bird song, flowers, and friendly passers-by. An encounter with a fox almost dooms Morris, but then he (rather implausibly) saves the fox from a wolf, who, for some odd reason, just lets him be. This plot twist seems rather forced and lacking in logic, but the grateful fox then rallies others to collect a veritable feast for Morris Mole to bring back to his underground family. Yaccarino’s digital illustrations are bold and graphic, and they do an excellent job of contrasting the under- and aboveground worlds that Morris Mole traverses in his adventure of individuality and community.

Plot holes may mar the story a bit, but there’s plenty to dig anyway. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-241107-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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