A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age.


Buitrago and Yockteng’s latest literary endeavor reconsiders a well-known Aesop fable.

A lion and a mouse live in the woods among other creatures big and small. The mouse, “a busybody and a glutton,” one day decides to enter the lion’s home uninvited. Before the rude guest can leave, the “very lovely” lion seizes him by the tail. The lion threatens the mouse, who would rather not be eaten. (He intends on meeting his girlfriend, after all.) So, the mouse offers to repay the lion someday in exchange for his life. The lion, ever a generous host, laughs off the proposal “as only lions can” but casts the mouse out instead of eating him. Naturally, the lion must swallow his pride the next day after falling prey to a hunter’s trap. At first, the lion doesn’t recognize the mouse “because all mice looked alike to him” (a telling detail), but the mouse nonetheless frees the frightened feline from an unfortunate fate. Up until now, the story beats remain the same as Aesop’s as Buitrago weaves this familiar tale, lacing it through with enough peculiar details to build strong personalities for the lion and the mouse. The author, however, continues the story and moves beyond the well-worn fable to ascertain how a friendship can forge itself, stemming from reciprocated kindness. Yockteng’s ferocious, low-key mixed-media artwork features stunning vignettes and page-filling spreads of woodlands populated with curious creatures.

A grand, morally opulent retelling with a message for our age. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Hee haw.

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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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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...


A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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