High-interest topic; low-budget production.

WOW, I DIDN'T KNOW THAT!

SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT ANIMALS

Surrounded by pithy commentary, dozens of common animals bound, stride, swim or otherwise pose against high-contrast monochrome backdrops in this unvarnished attempt to amaze.

Both facts and factoids are offered in a mix of floating text blocks and undulating lines in a larger size. The tidbits of natural history range from peculiar features (“Goats have rectangular pupils!”) to notes on common sizes or weights, feats of speed or migratory travel. Much of the need-to-know “information” centers on alimentary issues, such as the amount of poop an elephant produces every day (110 pounds) and how long it takes a gobbled-down fly to travel through a hummingbird (10 minutes). But the author provides no source notes to expand on or back up her claims. Furthermore, though Aspinall arranges his smiling but recognizably depicted creatures in loosely thematic groups with the occasional paw or tail serving as transition to the next spread, there is no sense of closure; a tiger’s face cut off by the gutter on the last page brings the presentation to an abrupt end.

High-interest topic; low-budget production. (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7534-7117-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Hee haw.

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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