There are no bad sock monkeys, not even the one or two who have forgotten themselves for a second.



A sock monkey goes to the dark side, or as dark as a sock monkey can get, in Kirk’s dovelike tale of dawning self-awareness.

Readers meet Monkey on the first page. It is a close-up of his face, and he has a grump on. “You took my ball— / just like that! // You wouldn’t give my ball back. You wouldn’t share.” That’s four pages of text. Monkey does not mince words. “I had to grab it when you weren’t looking! // Now I have my ball / and YOU cannot play with it anymore!” Indeed, “YOU cannot play with ME.” Period, as it were. So Monkey goes about pretending he is having a good time with his ball. He will play by himself, with new friends (a houseplant, a rock and a worm) and even with the big dog—though the dog doesn’t seem interested in playing. Kirk is all emotive and deliberate. Readers can feel the initial indignation and then its ebb as Monkey—and Kirk’s digitally collaged artwork gives him not only plenty of pathos, but lots of wooly texture—feels the sting of his friend’s absence. “Maybe I wasn’t a great friend,” Monkey comes to realize. Easy-peasy, Monkey. Kirk’s skillfully paced mix of vignettes, close-ups and long shots guide readers smoothly through this emotional odyssey.

There are no bad sock monkeys, not even the one or two who have forgotten themselves for a second. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1236-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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