An elegant artistic statement, but readers looking for a story on self-esteem will be disappointed.



Rhinoceros is not sure about his looks and wishes he were someone else, but his friends and one experience leave him feeling better.

“Here comes Rhinoceros. / Beautiful as a mountain. / A tiny bird settles on his back, / gentle as a snowflake.” Rhinoceros is sad because his horn is crooked and wishes he were “free like that snowflake,” in his imagination flying around with different sets of wings and even balloons. His fellow animals tell him they need him to protect them, and when the storm comes, he shelters the tiny bird with his mighty body, leaving him feeling better. The animals, which are lightly anthropomorphized (the meerkat carries a red umbrella), are drawn with great attention to texture on largely blank pages and in earthy colors accentuated in red, giving the illustrations a collagelike and contemporary art feel. However, the elliptical text does not live up to the quality of the artwork, and many readers will find the language disjointed and prose forced (possibly as a result of the translation from German). Moreover, some of the similes will most likely escape the comprehension of younger readers (“Curious as a mountain”?), who will likely also find the storyline—the rhino laughs as the bird is blown off his back before returning off-page—difficult to follow.

An elegant artistic statement, but readers looking for a story on self-esteem will be disappointed. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55455-448-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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