TACKY AND THE EMPEROR

Tacky, the delightful penguin who marches (or is it waddles?) to a different drummer is back in another funny and charming tale—this time involving a royal visit from the emperor. When Tacky and his five iceberg-mates learn that the emperor is coming to visit, they enter into frenzied preparations. A feast of fish-flavored food is prepared, entertainment is rehearsed, and Tacky is put in charge of the balloons. But when he blows up a really big balloon, he takes an unplanned ride and ends up on a neighboring iceberg, which, unbeknownst to Tacky, is the emperor’s home. Seeing a set of very fancy clothes lying unattended and unclaimed on the ice, he puts them on and waddles back to his own iceberg. To his amazement, his five friends make a huge fuss over him, plying him with food and making sure he’s amused and happy. Although Tacky doesn’t realize it, his friends have mistaken him for the emperor. When the real emperor arrives, the five others are mortified that there is nothing left with which to impress him, and are exasperated with Tacky. The emperor, who turns out to be sick to death of the stuffy and formal visits most of his subjects make him sit through, has a great time with Tacky and his improvisations. Instead of the fish-flavored food that the emperor is usually offered, they have snowball cones; instead of a boring dance recital, Tacky sings his favorite silly song; and they all (even his royal highness) tell penguin jokes. The watercolor illustrations are adorable and full of humor—note especially the fish-flavored ice cream, the emperor’s twinkle-toed shoes, and the double-page spread on which the penguins learn about the mistake that’s been made. Children will think this book is a riot and won’t even realize that a message is being delivered—a charming one about the joys of non-conformity. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-98120-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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