Gassy dogs may be funny, but poking fun at disabilities never is. Stinker indeed.


A boisterous, black-and-white dog has two problems: an excess of flatulence and a lack of a permanent home.

The dog is named Stinker, naturally, and his story is narrated in first person by a smart-aleck, marmalade cat who happens to be around for all the action (though without an explanation for its presence). The cat explains that Stinker’s first owner didn’t like “smelling his little smells.” She left Stinker at an animal shelter, where he was considered for adoption by several families and individuals, including people of color and a boy using a wheelchair. All of them reject the dog because of his gas problem. Stinker eventually finds a cozy home with a lonely, older man. Bright, busy illustrations in mixed media provide energetic personalities for the two animals, with scribbly, gray clouds of gas trailing after Stinker. The unexceptional story is not particularly funny, and the description of the older, white man, Mr. Curtis, is seriously flawed in its treatment of the man’s impaired sight and hearing. Mr. Curtis is “as old as the hills,” “can’t see worth a hill of beans,” and “cannot hear worth a hoot.” His sense of smell is still acute, so he locates Stinker by the dog’s gaseous smell. The condescending attitude toward the man’s age and disabilities represents an inappropriate and outdated use of advanced years and impairment as the butt of jokes.

Gassy dogs may be funny, but poking fun at disabilities never is. Stinker indeed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-1792-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Hee haw.

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.


If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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