Translated from Hungarian, this whimsical, modern folktale begs to be read aloud



A princess and her beloved improve their kingdom with intelligence and generosity while seeking to reverse a fowl curse.

Far away, in a castle with 36 towers and 300 windows, lives clever Princess Arnica. The princess and honest, practical Poor Johnny, “the most footloose and fancy-free of all people,” fall in love and are cursed by the Witch of a Hundred Faces. One will be a duck and the other a human until the Seven-Headed Fairy breaks the spell. As they search for the fairy, the pair encounters eclectic characters and situations, the episodes illustrating modern virtues that include the value of anger management, the power of love, and the pitfalls of material wealth. The book closes with a nuanced moral: “The important thing is to really, really want something. Even if it won’t necessarily succeed.” The short, connected episodes are built from folktalelike phrases. Two nameless narrators interrupt the story frequently for humorous, candid discussions of plot and characters. Mixed-media full-page and spot illustrations grace every other page and depict a largely white cast. Rounded shapes and bodies work in tandem with a sparkling jewel-toned palette to create a charming fantasy world, softening the ferocity of the witch and her animal minions. Readers will hope this is just the first of many works by Lázár, who died in 2006, to be translated into English.

Translated from Hungarian, this whimsical, modern folktale begs to be read aloud . (Fable. 4-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78269-220-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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