This book uses intriguing imagery to build a magical world, but it never settles on a clear message.


An old fisher recalls almost catching a mermaid in this debut picture book.

The story begins by describing hidden creeks that run beneath Knoxville, Tennessee. The unnamed narrator describes seeing a mermaid in one of the creeks, snatching away bread the narrator was feeding to a school of carp. Later, the narrator, revealed as a grandparent regaling children with the tale, recalls almost catching a mermaid during a flood. The mermaid escapes and, in a beautiful final image, is reunited with her nursing mother and baby sibling. Deal’s otherworldly ink-and-paint illustrations give a surreal aspect to even mundane subjects, such as the pollution featured prominently in the images of these creeks. Scott’s text combines repeated rhyming phrases after sections of nonrhyming poetic text that describe “green-eyed carp” and “halls of moss and snakeskin.” Both the text and imagery play up the mysterious beauty of these forgotten places, but the story’s overall intention is elusive. The garbage in the river is a clear problem, but it’s never mentioned by the narrator, and the fisher is punished for trying to catch the mermaid when she bites him, but otherwise the story passes no judgment.

This book uses intriguing imagery to build a magical world, but it never settles on a clear message.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2020


Page Count: 32

Publisher: Part Flamingo Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

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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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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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