Another average addition to an exponentially growing field.

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COUNTING ELEPHANTS

An energetic magician frustrates a staid counter’s endeavor to quantify a herd of elephants.

Written entirely in scripted dialogue, this odd effort takes middling passes at both humor and counting. The Counter’s metafictional announcement—that this is a counting book—is immediately contradicted by the Magician, who insists they are collaborating on magic, not math. Clad in the traditional black-and-red top hat and cape, the Magician begins transforming the gathered group of 10 elephants before the Counter even commences. Each time an attempt to enumerate begins, the Magician alters another elephant: The first becomes a frog; the second, a jar of peanut butter; the third, one of jelly; the fourth through seventh, some puppies; the eighth and ninth, more frogs; and the 10th, a rabbit. After restoring the elephants, the Magician turns the exasperated Counter into an anthropomorphic bag of (literal) “nuts.” In a genre distinguished by clever variations on a theme, these conceits—counting down rather than up and adding across categories to arrive at a total—just don’t tally, as the target age proves ambiguous. Solis’ digitally created images, which recall 1950s-era animation, teeter on the boundary between warm familiarity and generic boredom, with animated facial expressions lending them some exuberance. The text placement doesn’t always correspond with illustrations, hindering the counting exercise. Human characters are both white.

Another average addition to an exponentially growing field. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6694-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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