Considering the real-world 24-hour news cycle, these ursine antics amid the stars make for oddly comforting reading.

ALIEN ALERT

From the Breaking News series

In space, no one can hear you party.

Punctuating his story with special news reports complete with crawl feeds, Biedrzycki returns to the form that served him so well in Bear Alert (2014) and Bears to the Rescue (2016). Here, our three bear heroes find themselves unexpectedly sucked into a UFO along with a strange assortment of wildlife as well as farm and zoo animals. The action then cuts between the experiences of the startled creatures and the frenzied Channel 3 News reports for the people back on Earth. When at last the aliens land and discharge their guests, it becomes clear that these space denizens are more akin to Close Encounters of the Third Kind folks than Independence Day meanies: All the disembarking creatures sport goody bags from a birthday party that was truly out of this world (as memorialized on the rear endpapers). Rather surprisingly, the TV-news format feels fresh as ever, and Biedrzycki knows how to use its storytelling tropes to the book’s best advantage. His Adobe Photoshop illustrations keep the action hopping and include such contemporary touches as smartphones and chyrons even as old-fashioned test patterns and a predigital TV (with cable box atop) make an occasional appearance.

Considering the real-world 24-hour news cycle, these ursine antics amid the stars make for oddly comforting reading. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58089-804-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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