PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT FOR ROTTEN RALPH

Gantos brings back that rascally red Rotten Ralph for the second entry in the Rotten Ralph Rotten Readers series (Rotten Ralph Helps Out, 2001). This time, the irrepressible, irresponsible Ralph and his owner, Sally, are joined by Ralph’s tiger-striped, supremely confident cousin Percy for a trip to a carnival and its midway full of familiar games of chance. To Rotten Ralph’s chagrin, the perfect Percy wins all the carnival games (he practiced), and Ralph finally resorts to cheating so he can win some prizes, too. Ralph gets his comeuppance, of course, as he always does, and he has to return his ill-gotten gains and suffer some mild consequences before finally winning the last game of the day fair and square. (And guess who ends up in the dunk tank.) Gantos has a winning formula with this transitional easy reader series: a funny, somewhat “naughty” character; amusing art in a recognizable style; and a worthwhile little lesson that both kids and adults will appreciate. (This is just the title to recommend to teachers who want a story that will nip cheating in the bud.) Though this plot is not as innovative as the first entry in the series, Ralph has his own special niche in the world of children’s literature, and now on the easy-reader shelves, too. And of course, he’ll be back for more of these delightful readers—because practice makes perfect. (Easy reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 20, 2002

ISBN: 0-374-36356-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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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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JOHN PHILIP DUCK

Edward and his father work for the Peabody Hotel in Memphis since the Depression has brought hard times for so many. On weekends they return to their farm in the hills and it’s there Edward finds John Philip Duck, named for the composer whose marches Edward listens to on the radio. Edward has to look after the scrawny duckling during the week, so he risks the ire of the hotel manager by taking John Philip with him. The expected occurs when Mr. Shutt finds the duckling. The blustery manager makes Edward a deal. If Edward can train John Philip to swim in the hotel fountain all day (and lure in more customers), Edward and the duck can stay. After much hard work, John Philip learns to stay put and Edward becomes the first Duck Master at the hotel. This half-imagined story of the first of the famous Peabody Hotel ducks is one of Polacco’s most charming efforts to date. Her signature illustrations are a bit brighter and full of the music of the march. An excellent read aloud for older crowds, but the ever-so-slightly anthropomorphic ducks will come across best shared one-on-one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-24262-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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