A lovely but garbled fable


Pond life: an interrupted idyll.

“Once upon a time there was a pond, and in that pond lived a lot of frogs.” And they are a fine-looking army of frogs, decked out in French sailor shirts, singing songs, nabbing flies, snoozing, and attending to their coffee and paper on lily pads as delicate as etchings, all courtesy of Somà. Alas, one day a frog-sized crown falls into the water. One expert diver of a frog surfaces with the trophy and plops it on. A few other frogs get it into their heads that they will be her advisers and start bossing the other frogs around. Cali does not make it clear why this is so, since the frogs have seemingly always lived a democratic life and none of them “had ever seen a queen, and no one knew what to do or say. Finally, one of the frogs shouted, ‘Long live the queen!’ ” Despite the milieu, this doesn’t feel very organic. The queen takes on airs and entitlements; she is all-powerful and the best at everything. The other frogs even have to entertain her, such as the diving contest organized by the advisers. The common frogs urge the queen to dive, to show them how she is the best. She does, and predictably, the crown falls off and sinks into the mud. The metaphorical queen is dead; long live the common frog.

A lovely but garbled fable . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5481-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


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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