A visual muddle makes for an early-reader fail.

READ REVIEW

ELEPHANT JOE, BRAVE FIREFIGHTER!

From the Step into Reading Comic Reader series

Animal friends save the day when a dragon’s birthday party gets out of hand in this graphic-novel addition to the venerable Step into Reading line.

Elephant Joe and Zebra Pete hide in the bushes so they can jump out to surprise their friend Dragon. However, instead of appreciating the birthday surprise, Dragon flies into a tree and becomes entangled in the branches. The two friends suddenly turn into firefighters, complete with a ladder truck, for the rescue. After saving him, the friends present the birthday cake, but Dragon sets it afire while blowing out the candles. With no fire hydrant for water, Dragon picks up Elephant Joe and flies to a lake, where the pachyderm’s handy trunk sucks up water to save the day. While the cartoon illustrations will draw young readers in, the story is hard to follow. How did these two buddies instantaneously become firefighters? It might be a game of pretend, but to literal-minded young readers, that premise will be unclear. Though the speech bubbles are fun, including a frog who seems to act as narrator is another point of confusion, as it’s not always clear from its dialogue whether it’s interacting with the characters or describing the action. For a comic-book early-reader to succeed, the speech bubbles and graphic elements need to make sense. The digital art is colorful and amusing, with the animals’ expressions and eye movements telling much of the story.

A visual muddle makes for an early-reader fail. (Early reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37406-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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

THE DINKY DONKEY

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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Aims high but just doesn’t get there.

LITTLE FOX AND THE WILD IMAGINATION

Beware the imagination that cannot be contained.

When Poppa Fox comes to pick his son up after school he finds Little Fox a complete grump. Happily, Poppa Fox knows just the way to perk up his kiddo. One minute they’re pretending to be race cars, the next they’re dinos on the bus, and then later they’re blasting off to outer space to grab some ice cream. Unfortunately, all that sugar before dinner means that Little Fox’s imagination is now primed to go haywire. Now he’s a robo squid destroying a broccoli forest (rather than eating his dinner), then a shark devouring his dad, who is driving a mail truck (that is, splashing way too much in the tub). Things calm down by bedtime, but when Poppa Fox tells his son he will pick him up again the next day, Little Fox already has big plans. As books built on the power of imagination go, this story starts out strong but loses steam about the time Little Fox loses his focus. Santat’s art does more than its fair share of the heavy lifting, particularly when Little Fox’s imagination is supposed to go off the rails. Madcap adventure never looked this fun. Yet the book can’t quite nail the landing, shifting tone from one page turn to the next, leaving readers ultimately unsatisfied. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 33.8% of actual size.)

Aims high but just doesn’t get there. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21250-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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