A less ebullient outing than usual.

HORSE & BUGGY PLANT A SEED!

From the I Like To Read series

Growing plants takes water, soil, sun, and patience.

In the same vein as a popular pachyderm-and-porker pair, a cartoon horse and a sun hat–wearing horsefly engage in agricultural pursuits—with minimal props—against a flat, neon background that changes color with each page or each panel. The goal of this adventure is to plant seeds and grow vegetables (or vegetables and fruits depending on how one categorizes tomatoes, though the book does not wade into that debate). Buggy is determined to get on with the job while Horse’s high energy levels and abbreviated attention span provide comedic distractions. Befitting this very elementary early reader, the dialogue-only text that peppers the story is sparse—limited to mostly one-syllable words and a few brief sentences, the longest of which contains six words. This entry in the series, alas, is not as successful as its predecessors. The combination of incredibly spare text and frequent jumps from one conversation to the next may leave some children feeling disjointed or confused. These leaps also distract from the final joke, which stems from planting unknown seeds; its subtle buildup is at odds with the broad humor of the characters. The ultrabright backgrounds often compete with tiny Buggy and pale gray Horse, overshadowing the duo. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at 56% of actual size.)

A less ebullient outing than usual. (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4498-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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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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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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