Like the eponymous dish, this will whet limited appetites.

A BOOK FOR ESCARGOT

A Francophone snail struggles to find itself in a story.

Escargot, a cartoon snail in a blue-and-white–striped shirt, a red kerchief, and a black beret, immediately breaks the fourth wall, opening with: “Bonjour! I see you are reading a book. I will try not to distract you.” (The “you” here at the end is revealed to be a smiling black child holding a paintbrush. It’s all very meta.) Of course, what follows is a meandering distraction. Escargot first talks about different books “you” might like, then laments the lack of vibrant, positive snail representation in these stories. Escargot then brags about itself, imagining that “you” are addressing it: “The main character of a story must have a problem, Escargot! You are so handsome, suave, and smart. What problem could you possibly have?” (The proliferation of “you”s here, referring to very distinctly different “you”s, will pose a challenge to young readers not totally conversant with the conventions of dialogue.) The problem turns out to be that Escargot is tired of salads. The ensuing adventure involves finding a French cookbook, learning that snails could be on the menu, and deciding that the only way to save the day is to eat the cookbook. It’s barely even a story, and the annoyingly grandiose narrator is likely to lead non-Francophones to attempt a mocking French accent during read-alouds, an exhausting gag that tires itself out.

Like the eponymous dish, this will whet limited appetites. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-31286-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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