Spotty visuals drag down a lively text.

READ REVIEW

HANK AND GERTIE

A PIONEER HANSEL AND GRETEL STORY

A new twist on an old favorite takes readers along the Oregon Trail.

It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Hansel and Gretel’s forest in Germany to the lonely high deserts of Oregon and Idaho. Here, siblings Hank and Gertie wander too far from their wagon train only to discover a cabin made of rock candy and licorice. The witch inside immediately imprisons Gertie and feeds Hank past satiety, meaning it’s up to the girl’s quick brain, applying what she’s learned on the trail, to save both herself and her brother. Kimmel proves yet again that folk- and fairy tales still make for great picture-book fodder. Eschewing Western vernacular, he tells his tale straight, albeit with some startling details (the witch takes a page out of Baba Yaga’s playbook, traveling by kettle). Serviceable, sometimes-awkward, flat images accompany the text, occasionally surprising readers with understated details (as when the wagon train loads up the candy from the cabin at the end). The illustrations shine when displaying the magnificent array of foods—duff pudding with maple cream sauce, fried chicken, hoecakes, and more—that disappear down Hank’s gullet. Hank, Gertie, and their mother are white, and no mention is made of American Indians, though the villain’s darker skin, fringed buckskin jacket, and moccasins are entirely avoidable choices that play into stereotypes.

Spotty visuals drag down a lively text. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-51326-122-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages.

NOT QUITE NARWHAL

Being true to yourself means embracing differences and striding (or paddling) fearlessly into the world.

Emerging from a giant clam, baby unicorn Kelp lives among narwhals, believing he’s just not as good as everyone else at swimming, appreciating a squid dinner, or breathing underwater (he sports a glass diving helmet—with a gasket-encircled hole for his horn). Swept close to shore one day, he spies for the first time an adult unicorn and, struck by the resemblance to himself, totters onto solid ground. The “land narwhals” explain to him that they—and he—are unicorns. Kelp’s blissful new life of learning to do special unicorn things amid sparkles and rainbows is punctuated by sadness over the narwhal friends he left behind. Upon returning to his watery home, Kelp learns that the narwhals knew all along that he was actually a unicorn. Following a brief internal tussle over where he truly belongs, Kelp recognizes that he doesn’t have to be just one thing or another and happily unites his friends at the shoreline. As seen in Sima’s soft, digital illustrations, Kelp is adorable, and she evokes both undersea and aboveground environments artfully. The message is an appealing one that could speak to many family situations relating to multiple identities, but the central dilemma is resolved so quickly and easily that there is little room for emotional engagement.

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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