Some kids may enjoy the mishmash of loud photos and unremarkable storytelling, but parents will want to sidestep this...



An unfortunate mix of jarringly jumbled artwork, tepid text and general overstimulation, this visit to "Grandmama" feels at times like it will never end.

Attempts at whimsy in this celebration of the best place in the world—Grandmama's home—are forced to the point of causing eyestrain. Each page is a cluttered collection of photo-collaged images creating tableaux that are at times as nightmarish as they are imaginative. On one page, colorful birds fly around a rock sculpture in a Technicolor desert where Grandmama lives, while a kangaroo pushes a stroller and a child appears to be fleeing in terror. The most interesting visual effect is that the surface of the busy collages can be moved with the finger to create a tilting 3-D effect, making all the people, animals and objects on the screen appear to exist on multiple planes. But the "wow" factor of that admittedly neat feature subsides as it's paired with such lackluster couplets as, "We paint pictures and then later / Hang them on her fridgerator." The text is tiny (even when set at the largest font size available) and appears in a giant, ugly white strip along the bottom of every page. Though one little boy narrates the story throughout, the photos of people appear to be of different families and different Grandmamas, adding to the garish chaos. 

Some kids may enjoy the mishmash of loud photos and unremarkable storytelling, but parents will want to sidestep this unpleasant app. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 17, 2012


Page Count: -

Publisher: NeeNee Holdings

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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Aims high but falls flat.


Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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