Quality storytelling and beautiful art allow a likable protagonist to shine.

READ REVIEW

MEET MISS FANCY

A young boy helps raise money to bring an elephant to his town, but will he get to touch it like the other children do?

Frank can’t wait to welcome Miss Fancy to her new home in nearby Avondale Park. But a sign stops him: “No Colored Allowed.” He climbs a tree and tosses peanuts to Miss Fancy, but it isn’t close enough. He can’t bring himself to break the law by entering the park. He asks the Rev. Brooks what he can do. They decide to write a letter asking the city to allow their congregation to have a Sunday picnic at the park. They get plenty of signatures, and their request is approved, but then the Rev. Brooks brings the sad news to Frank that they won’t have the picnic after all, because “ ‘there could be trouble.’…‘Trouble’ meant black people could be hurt or worse.” Finally, Frank ingeniously finds a way to lead Miss Fancy out of the park and then back. For returning her, he is rewarded with his dream. Readers will feel for Frank from the first page; his singular goal is a brilliant vehicle for making the injustice of segregation concrete for young readers while telling an interesting story based on historical events (as described in an author’s note). Holyfield’s skillful artwork uses complex color blends, light, and shadow with stylized form to create memorable characters and scenes. Unfortunately, while the upbeat ending is good for Frank, it elides the decades of Jim Crow that followed the events of the story.

Quality storytelling and beautiful art allow a likable protagonist to shine. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-54668-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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