In between giggles, children will find much to think about. (Picture book. 5-9)

JOHN JENSEN FEELS DIFFERENT

John Jensen lives a perfectly ordinary, one would even say dull, life. So why does he "feel different"?

From the morning, when he munches on extra-fiber super-crunch cereal and brushes his teeth, to "when he's sitting in the tax office working on cases" to his evening commute back home, he feels different. Maybe it's the tail? Children will be all over the disconnect between text and images, because this Caspar Milquetoast of a protagonist is a crocodile living in a world (mostly) otherwise populated by humans. Even funnier than this is the obvious lack of interest everyone around him shows him, despite his intense self-consciousness (the man sitting next to him on the bus is actually sleeping). Nevertheless, John Jensen decides to try hiding his tail under his shirts to avoid notice. But of course, "[w]ith your tail around your middle, you feel clumsy and it's easy to lose your balance," causing him to fall and attracting a lot of attention. The bruised saurian takes himself to the emergency room, where he is treated by… an elephant. A quick pep talk from Dr. Field makes John Jensen realize all the advantages of having a tail, and he celebrates Norway's Constitution Day happily, just one among the throng. Kove's childlike cartoons and their muted palette suit Hovland's daffy fable to a T, matching its deadpan tone with bland innocence.

In between giggles, children will find much to think about. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5399-8

Page Count: 33

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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