New readers looking for a good confidence builder should grab this one. (Early reader. 4-8)

DIXIE

An easy-to-read story about a little girl’s dream of playing Dorothy with her own dog, Dixie, in the role of Toto.

Dixie is initially excited when Emma, her owner, is chosen to be the star of the school production of The Wizard of Oz. Anything that makes Emma happy makes Dixie happy. “All you have to do is follow me everywhere,” Emma reassures the pup. That sounds perfect to the dog. When Dixie realizes that the play preparations are cutting into her Emma time, though, she retaliates by hiding with one of the ruby slippers, leaving Dorothy with no Toto and only one shoe. With very short sentences, ample white space and sight-word vocabulary, this will be accessible to the earliest readers. A straightforward, comforting plot, coupled with rich, full-color illustrations, adds appeal. Dixie’s antics are particularly energetic—she runs in circles around the pages while Emma holds her red pigtails in exasperation. When Emma thinks all is lost, the illustration droops in empathy: Her fuzzy-bear slippers’ faces frown; the picture on the wall shows Dixie walking away; and her stuffed animal dejectedly flops over the edge of the bed.  The dog-and-girl friendship deepens as Emma realizes that her sweet Dixie is truly her best pal.

New readers looking for a good confidence builder should grab this one. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-171914-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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