HOUNDSLEY AND CATINA

Houndsley, a good cook, and Catina, a misguided memoirist, pursue goals out of step with their true natures in this humorous beginning reader, the first of a series. Extroverted Catina, bent on fame and prizes, produces 74 chapters of terrible autobiography, a fact that Houndsley can’t bring himself to point out. When Catina persuades her limelight-loathing friend to enter a cooking contest, he panics at the crowds and botches a favorite recipe. Later, contemplating fireflies together, Houndsley realizes that for him, cooking well is its own reward, while Catina resolves to come by her fame honestly, by finding and practicing something she loves to do. Gay’s pale watercolor-and-pencil illustrations include small, appealing details and amusing facial expressions. The front endpaper is decorated with the pattern on Catina’s collaged dress, while the back endpaper echoes Houndsley’s pants. Howe competently mixes the format’s conventions—friends of the opposite sex, serial adventures in short chapters and a few kid-friendly object lessons. A pleasantly seasoned potboiler. (Easy reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7636-2404-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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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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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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