Like the eponymous dish, this will whet limited appetites.



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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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.


Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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