Readers would be advised to look elsewhere for more entertaining editions.


The classic Appalachian folktale “Sody Sallyraytus” loses its flavor in this retelling.

This cumulative tale has long been a favorite of storytellers who savored the dialect of Richard Chase’s version in Grandfather Tales (1948). A family in need of sody sallyraytus, or baking soda, for biscuits is done in by a hungry bear and saved by their pet squirrel. Paw Paw, brother, sister and finally Maw Maw each, in turn, head off to the store and on their return, run afoul of a very hungry bear under a bridge. Finally, the squirrel saves them and the baking soda. Chase included a tailor-made refrain that demands audience participation. De Las Casas’ version is unfortunately too wordy, and her refrain doesn’t scan comfortably. Putting a “big bad bear” in the title and repeating the phrase on almost every page unnecessarily adds a scary element and elevates the bear in importance over the squirrel. Gentry’s watercolor illustrations are too washed-out to have any visual impact. Her bear, oddly blue, would be a better fit in a version of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” A recipe for buttery biscuits is included.

Readers would be advised to look elsewhere for more entertaining editions. (Picture book/folk tale. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4556-1690-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pelican

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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