INTERRUPTING CHICKEN AND THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE

A laugh-out-loud follow-up to Stein’s 2011 Caldecott honoree, Interrupting Chicken.

Little Chicken is back, and her metafictive editorial impulses are as strong as ever. After school, she tells Papa, “my teacher told us every story has an elephant of surprise.” Papa corrects her, replying, “She was talking about an element of surprise,” but Chicken is unconvinced and is determined to find surprising elephants in the stories she reads for homework with Papa. And find them she does in the books-within-the-book: The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid. As in Interrupting Chicken, Stein changes styles to illustrate Chicken’s books and then visually interrupts those scenes—this time not just with Chicken jumping into the books, but with her imagined elephant of surprise, too. He ratchets up the humor by depicting the small, blue, adorable elephant in costume for each story—feathered like a swan, wearing long braids and a dirndl, and finally in a grass skirt and coconut bra. More indulgent than exasperated, Papa determines to tell Chicken a story without elephants, and she illustrates it. She, of course, also interrupts it with an elephant of surprise. While the interrupting conceit is a bit less straightforward in this book than its predecessor, fans of the two loving characters will be delighted to see them again.

Unsurprisingly good. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8842-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale.

YOU ARE (NOT) SMALL

From the You Are (Not) Small series

Fuzzy, bearlike creatures of different sizes relate to one another in an amusing story that explores the relative nature of size.

A small purple creature meets a similarly shaped but much larger orange critter. The purple creature maintains that the orange creature is “big”; the orange one counters by calling the purple one “small.” This continues, devolving into a very funny shouting match, pages full of each type of creature hollering across the gutter. This is followed by a show-stopping double-page spread depicting two huge, blue legs and the single word “Boom!” in huge display type. Tiny, pink critters then float down by parachute, further complicating the size comparisons. Eventually, these brightly colored animals learn to see things in a different way. In the end, they decide they are all hungry and trudge off to eat together. The story is told effectively with just a few words per page, though younger readers might need help understanding the size and perspective concepts. Cartoon-style illustrations in ink and watercolor use simple shapes with heavy black outlines set off by lots of white space, with an oversized format and large typeface adding to the spare but polished design. While the story itself seems simple, the concepts are pertinent to several important social issues such as bullying and racism, as well as understanding point of view.

Charming characters, a clever plot and a quiet message tucked inside a humorous tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4772-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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