This fish tail is amusing, though it won’t help kids who find themselves in Bertie’s shoes.

CODZILLA

A big cod’s struggles with bullying come to an end when he saves the school from a shark.

Bertie is one huge cod, towering over every other student in his school. Because they fear him and his strength, they side with Maxwell in his bullying of Bertie, chiming in when Maxwell asks, “Hey guys, what’s this beast’s name again?” “CODZILLA!” Bertie might be a bit clumsy, but he is a gentle cod who loves to read about sharks in the school library. But even mild-mannered fish can get pushed too far, and when running, hiding, and playing dead don’t alleviate the bullying, Bertie takes care of Maxwell by eating him…and all the witnesses. Their racket drives Bertie to sneeze them out again, but the bullying gets worse until the day Bertie turns hero by putting all his shark knowledge (and his huge stomach capacity) to good use. While it’s refreshing to see the reversal of size stereotypes, with a small bully and a large target, it’s unfortunate that the bullying only ends when Bertie becomes useful. The fish in Chapman’s Photoshop illustrations are shaped like bullets with various colored and shaped fins and remarkably expressive, rather goofy faces. All “walk” upright on their fins, and the atmosphere is extremely dry despite the presence of watery plants and the occasional bubble. Don’t miss the titles of the library books.

This fish tail is amusing, though it won’t help kids who find themselves in Bertie’s shoes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-257067-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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