Too smart for its own good.


A metafictive examination of “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The book opens and closes with a cartoon-style dog and cat—the main characters—discussing the endpapers on the endpapers. They also appear on the title page, the cat with dripping paintbrush in paw, apparently having just finished painting the title. The story begins in earnest as the cat reads “Little Red Riding Hood” aloud to the dog, the text of the tale appearing as a printed sheet of paper, which appears along with the dog and cat against the white background. Believing Little Red to be a superhero, the dog asks what her special power is. The cat explains that Little Red has no superpowers, but the dog continues to drive the cat to distraction. Interestingly, while the grandmother hides in a closet and so avoids being eaten, Little Red’s father appears and cuts off the wolf’s head before Little Red is swallowed—a strange deus ex machina salvation that is not quite as violent as the original story. (It’s violent enough for the dog to question the story’s appropriateness for children, however.) The use of minimal color and objects in the illustrations, coupled with the sometimes-advanced humor, suits the book to older readers with prior knowledge of both fairy tales and superheroes and maturing attention spans. Unfortunately, the book is more metafiction than story, making it feel more an exercise than, well, a book.

Too smart for its own good. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-69481-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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 first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.


From the Fly Guy series

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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