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ARMADILLO TATTLETALE

Reminiscent of Aesop’s Fables, Ketteman (Shoeshine Whittaker, 1999, etc.) tells a mirthful moral tale wherein a busybody armadillo learns the consequences of eavesdropping and gossiping. Armadillo has ears as long as a jackrabbit’s, which allow him to hear everything he shouldn’t and make it very difficult for him to get around. Those pesky ears are always getting under foot. Moreover, all the other animals, stung by his misspeak, have excluded him from the watering hole. Despite his constant thirst and “the what-for and the how-come and the why-not” scolding he’s been treated to, Armadillo persists in his disagreeable behavior. He creeps about, bending an ear to other’s conversations and then twisting what he’s heard. He really gets himself in a fix when he crosses Alligator. One day he overhears Heron and Alligator discussing the way Toad’s skin has improved, perhaps because of a changed diet. Armadillo passes this along to Toad, only his version has Alligator calling Toad’s skin “plug-ugly” and suggesting she go on a diet. When Alligator discovers this she gives Armadillo what-for but she also adds gnashing teeth and some precise nipping here and there until all Armadillo has left are diminutive ears. From then on, Armadillo cannot hear quite so keenly, but his ears never trip him up again. Graves’s waggish illustrations, an ideal match for the text, are painted in striking deep hues and make for fabulous eye-candy. Rarely is learning a lesson this much fun. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-590-99723-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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DIARY OF A SPIDER

The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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