A strange and provocative addition to the canon of trickster tales.

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FIDDLE DEE DEE!

From the African savanna comes a trickster tale featuring a clever monkey and his musical bow.

Monkey finds the bow and is plucking out notes with it when Hyena comes along and accuses Monkey of robbery. This is a dilemma that must be solved by the opinionated Lion. Unfortunately, Lion has a corrupt streak and demands the bow. Monkey beseeches Lion to allow him to play it one last time. As he does, all the animals begin dancing themselves into a frenzy. Monkey plays faster and faster and is able to take advantage of the animals’ exhaustion to keep the bow for himself. The story is laden with the aggression that tends to accompany such trickster tales, in which a physically weak animal often utilizes intellect and wit to outsmart a stronger creature. This is accentuated by Grobler’s distinctively splattery and somewhat macabre illustrations. Messy lines and vigorous flourishes create a grim dreamscape. Readers will likely respond to the imagery with immense attraction or revulsion; there is little room for middle ground. Though a small note about the story indicates its South African origins, within the text a generic “Africa” setting is, unfortunately, deployed, perpetuating an image of the continent in which all that exists are wilderness and the animals that inhabit it. A note on the instrument follows.

A strange and provocative addition to the canon of trickster tales. (Picture book/folktale. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-91095-975-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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