PETE THE CAT: TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR

From the Pete the Cat series

The Pete the Cat cash machine grinds out another nursery-rhyme–based picture book (Old MacDonald Had a Farm, 2014).

Here, the heavy-lidded cat contemplates (kind of) a twinkling star. The book’s chief value is in reproducing all five stanzas of the traditional rhyme, presumably to give artist Dean enough material to fill another 32 pages. The aesthetics that have informed the franchise throughout are scrupulously maintained, resulting in the odd, if predictable, disconnect between the celebratory text and the couldn’t-care-less protagonist. The verse “How I wonder what you are!” is paired with an image of Pete letting his stoner stare rest on readers, ignoring the telescope that is trained on the twinkling star: He couldn’t look further from wonderment. In a delightful departure from his approach in Old MacDonald, Dean seems to be trying to impose a narrative in which Pete ends his day of play to go home, eat supper with his equally bored-looking family, bathe and go to bed. Unfortunately, inconsistency in the color of the sky—it’s often painted noonday blue and at the beginning discordantly shifts from dusky blue to sunset yellow—unmoors readers, and the illustrations often have nothing to do with the text. Pete is at his most appealing when asleep and dreaming of flying a spaceship to the star, one of the only moments in the book when text, tone and visuals truly align.

For fans only . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-230416-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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