Stunning illustrations and authentic words grace this unusually sophisticated picture book.


Following Nighttime Ninja (2012), Young and DaCosta collaborate once again, this time infusing the sense and spirit of Moby-Dick (with a twist) into a picture book.

As the book opens, a crew of whalemen longs to be homeward bound, their combined voices echoing sea chanteys (in fact all the words in the story but one are taken from Melville’s novel). But the chase for Moby Dick is on, extending page after dramatic page…until the plug is pulled—literally—and readers realize that the story is an imaginative child’s bathtub adventure. Each double-page spread (most in a typical horizontal orientation, others an unexpected vertical) brings readers a fresh dose of nuance and meaning created by Young’s expert design and composition. The endpapers, which at first appear to be a random mottled tan and white, on closer inspection reveal possibly a negative image of sailing ships, or is it a whale’s hide seen very close up? This illustrative complexity rewards readers who look deeply, engaging both their perceptions and emotions. Off-kilter lines indicate unease and tension. The red face of the peg-legged captain intent on revenge visually screams his anger. A harpoon’s shocking pink line, at first glance incongruous, has a slant and color that reverberates against the cobalt blue of the water, creating a thrum of action. It all works.

Stunning illustrations and authentic words grace this unusually sophisticated picture book. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-29936-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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Dizzyingly silly.


From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 11

The famous superhero returns to fight another villain with all the trademark wit and humor the series is known for.

Despite the title, Captain Underpants is bizarrely absent from most of this adventure. His school-age companions, George and Harold, maintain most of the spotlight. The creative chums fool around with time travel and several wacky inventions before coming upon the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, making its return for vengeance after sitting out a few of the previous books. When the good Captain shows up to save the day, he brings with him dynamic action and wordplay that meet the series’ standards. The Captain Underpants saga maintains its charm even into this, the 11th volume. The epic is filled to the brim with sight gags, toilet humor, flip-o-ramas and anarchic glee. Holding all this nonsense together is the author’s good-natured sense of harmless fun. The humor is never gross or over-the-top, just loud and innocuous. Adults may roll their eyes here and there, but youngsters will eat this up just as quickly as they devoured every other Underpants episode.

Dizzyingly silly. (Humor. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-50490-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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