Highly entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny.

READ REVIEW

THE PANDA PROBLEM

What if the main character took over the storytelling from the narrator?

The (presumably adult) narrator begins the story of a panda who has a “BIG problem,” but the panda protagonist (represented opposite the narration) loudly disagrees. Panda goes on to explain that they have no problems: Their view from atop the bamboo tree is great, there’s plenty to eat, and the day is sunny. When the narrator explains to the panda that they are the main character and that they need to overcome a problem, because “that’s how stories work,” the panda suggests that they become the problem instead! The panda then begins a series of activities to frustrate the narrator, ranging from the merely obnoxious (playing the banjo really badly) to downright outrageous (introducing a second, equally problematic panda into the story). This metafictive picture book’s success lies in the creation of two distinct voices, which makes the exchange of dialogue possible. The voices can be told apart by the difference in type: The narritorial text is set in formal black typeface that denotes a sense of authority, and the panda responds through hand-lettered speech bubbles. Master of meta Underwood’s (Here Comes the Easter Cat, 2014, etc.) witty narrative and Marks’ cute, colored-pencil illustrations come together to create a comical struggle for control between a narrator and their rebellious creation.

Highly entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2850-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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