It's a message harried parents will appreciate but which even very young readers may feel lacks nuance.

JACK'S SECRET MONSTER

Poor design choices and an unconvincing story hobble an attempt to create a Choose Your Own Adventure–style story about a boy and a mess-making monster in his house.

Young Jack finds a monster and brings it home—where it gets loose and begins wreaking havoc. The boy must find the monster and decide whether to tell his parents the truth about the destructive creature. But it soon becomes a chore, as the story branches are based on decisions such as choosing which room to search and whether to help the monster or fess up to Jack's parents. Getting to the end of the story (which changes based on decisions to lie or tell the truth) takes some effort, as clumsy design choices abound. Exploring the screen as the lengthy bits of narration unwind can inadvertently cut the text short. Many of the app's well-drawn, busy pages are meant to be searched through to find the hiding monster, though the floating eyeball that seems meant to indicate where to tap perplexes more than it guides. The only way to achieve a happy ending is always to tell the truth. Otherwise, the story ends with a chastened Jack cleaning up a huge mess: "Maybe if he'd made different choices, things could have been better..."

It's a message harried parents will appreciate but which even very young readers may feel lacks nuance. (iPad storybook app. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: GameDigits

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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