It doesn’t outshine the original, but it’s a romping, regional retelling that introduces new animals to boot.

THERE ONCE WAS A COWPOKE WHO SWALLOWED AN ANT

“There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” gets a down-home Texan transformation.

An exaggerated blockhead of a cowboy accidentally swallows a fire ant. His eyes bulge and cheeks puff wide—“The cowpoke panted, and his voice got higher. / ‘Yippie-ti-yay! My stomach’s on fire!’ ” He needs to fix this situation right quick. So what does he do? Why, swallow a spider, of course. But that spider (complete with eight eyes) wiggles and waggles inside him. And so he downs a string of Southwestern creatures—a snake, a roadrunner, an armadillo (shortened to “ ’dillo” for the rhythm’s sake), a boar and more. The poor cowpoke looks more bedraggled and desperate with each passing animal. But before the expected tragic end of the cumulative song can befall him, determination kicks in. He sets his 10-gallon hat firmly on his head and declares, “If I want it done right, I’ll do it myself.” In a twist sure to stop young readers in their tracks, the cowboy swallows his rope, his horse and…himself. Those animals stampede right out of his mouth. Warm, sun-baked hues and wide-mouthed gulping scenes amp up the lunacy. Alas, the rhythm takes some bumpy turns, so singing out loud requires practice.

It doesn’t outshine the original, but it’s a romping, regional retelling that introduces new animals to boot. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-7850-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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