Young readers not overwhelmed by the visual intensity will chant the minimal text; older ones will note questions about...

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Dramatic paintings add depth and foreboding to a lesson about excessive materialism.

Magpies are famous for collecting shiny objects, and this protagonist is a classic exemplar. At first, he stands in the bottom-right corner of a blank spread, downcast. Composition and expression display his isolated melancholy; the text murmurs, “Nothing.” A mouse gives him a marble, which sets the bird to collecting objects and building many nests to hold them. Text remains sparse:  “A few, / several, // more / and more and more. // Lots.” The plot is simple: The collected objects become so numerous that a nest crashes to the ground, burying the magpie. (Mice unbury him; he’s uninjured.) The unsurprising moral is that two or three objects are, “Yes, enough” (though the magpie still needs the mouse’s persuasion to accept that lesson). Lies contrasts pale, faintly patterned backgrounds of handmade paper with forceful close-ups in acrylic and colored pencil. Large, dark areas inside the nests show stolen items—Lego, penny, toothbrush, binky, spoon—as identifiable but no longer shiny, emphasizing Springman’s message. The illustration of the crash is downright scary. This magpie’s leg-band goes unexplained; does it symbolize entrapment, civilization or the infinite danger (the numbers echo Pi) of hoarding?

Young readers not overwhelmed by the visual intensity will chant the minimal text; older ones will note questions about accumulation, materialism, friendship—and how to decide what’s meaningful. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-61083-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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