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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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