For all its simplicity, an episode rich in drama, humor, pathos, and thematic depth—with plenty of latitude for verbal...




Sturm pays tribute to the Japanese art of kamishibai storytelling with a wordless tale of two wicked children who are turned into monkeys.

Bearing sticks and angry expressions, a boy and a girl chase a red bird up a mountain slope—only to meet an enraged wizard who transforms them and leaves them to be chased by a tiger, then captured for a circus sideshow (“They Read! They Write!”). By the time they are released, both have undergone inner transformations too, and their reverent treatment of the bird when it returns leads to final glimpses of three birds flying off together. (Though inspired by the Japanese art, Sturm draws Western characters; the children and wizard are white, though the sideshow crowd is multiracial.) In an afterword with photos, Sturm (of the Adventures in Cartooning series) explains how traditional kamishibai works, drawing a clear connection between the art and graphic storytelling. He leaves decorated but otherwise blank pages opposite each of his cleanly drawn full-page illustrations throughout as silent invitations to viewers to supply their own narratives, dialogue, and sound effects to his story. Children will not be slow to take him up on the offer.

For all its simplicity, an episode rich in drama, humor, pathos, and thematic depth—with plenty of latitude for verbal embellishment. (resource list) (Graphic early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-935179-94-8

Page Count: 60

Publisher: TOON Books & Graphics

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


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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