Strictly for reptile fans; Hutchins’ one-note tale and Holdcroft’s illustrations are both rough and unsubtle. Two appended...


Garter snakes use spelling skills to enlist lifesaving help. Who knew?

As the chickens peck nearby and the cat perches in a window, Rufus the farm dog is startled to see three snakes twisted into shapes that “seemed somehow familiar.” They are forming the word DOG. Another 28 snakes have spelled out, “Help please Snakes in trouble” (they can spell, but punctuation is harder). Uncertain, Rufus sets out on farmyard patrol. He herds four snakes spelling NEED out of the path of a speeding truck just in time and thinks that all is well—until he notices more snakes spelling out more words. This is a job for the farmer, who’s filling a hole. Rufus grabs the shovel and takes off across the field, the farmer in hot pursuit. The snakes have spelled out a new message—“SAVE OUR HOME”—with an arrow pointing the way. The farmer heads to his computer to look up snake facts, then sets to work. With Rufus watching, he redigs the hole, then puts a fence around it. In cold weather, snakes can avoid freezing to death by staying in the hole, he explains. The snakes spell a shoutout for Rufus, who came to their rescue—even though it’s not clear whether Rufus can read.

Strictly for reptile fans; Hutchins’ one-note tale and Holdcroft’s illustrations are both rough and unsubtle. Two appended pages of interesting snake facts are the highlights here. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-472-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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