Maid Marian is a Brooklyn resident who, with her dog Marvin, can't seem to find a decent blueberry muffin in the entire borough. Their fruitless quest gives Maid Marian the idea of baking her own, leading to a muffins-by-bike enterprise that exists in the real world. The idea of a children's story app that is in part one big advertisement for "Maid Marian" Jessica Vander Salm's business may strike some as suspect (the story and app were created by Vander Salm and her brother Jamie). It's not lacking for cute, funky illustrations, though, and it has a fresh, playful tone throughout. The narration is enthusiastic (almost excessively so), and Marvin's expressions (spitting out a subpar muffin, plaintively donning a chef's hat) are funny. The trial-and-error process of creating the perfect blueberry muffin is also detailed amusingly—"They baked muffins that slouched… and muffins that shrunk… and muffins that sweated and smoldered and stunk"—in quite good less-is-more prose. The app eschews any interactive elements except page swipes, but it's got personality to make up for that. The illustrated New York locales give the app a strong sense of place, and an About the Authors page might make readers wonder why more children's-book apps fail to feature author/illustrator information. Even if it's a business ploy, it's an entertaining, seemingly well-intentioned one. Who can't identify with love for a delicious, fresh-baked muffin? (iPad storybook app. 3-10)

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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Positively refreshing.


A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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