’Tis the season for sassy retellings of classic tales, as in Marjorie Priceman’s Froggie Went A-Courting (see above). Wattenberg recasts the “sky is falling” routine into a version that kids familiar with rap and hip-hop will immediately comprehend. When whacked on the head with an acorn, that fine red hen Henny-Penny squawks, “Chickabunga! The sky is falling! It’s coming on down! I must run and tell the King.” And so she heads out, picking up rooster Cocky-Locky, Ducky-Lucky, and Drake-Cake, Goosey-Loosey and Gander-Lander (that Glam-Gal and that He-Hunk) and so on even unto Turkey-Lurkey. But Foxy-Loxy lures them astray with promises of a shortcut to the King, so only Henny-Penny escapes. (The back cover illustration muses, “Was it REALLY all my fault?”) The pictures are photomontages of actual fowl belonging to the author with key images—a golden crown, Stonehenge, the Tower of Pisa, the Parthenon, among other famous architectural wonders—set in a wild landscape that ranges from craggy hills to forest glens. The text works with italics, all capitals, boldface, and rubrication to keep the energy going. And while Henny-Penny never did tell the King the sky was falling, she does lay one humongous egg. Sure to evoke lots of giggling at story hour. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-07817-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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Edward and his father work for the Peabody Hotel in Memphis since the Depression has brought hard times for so many. On weekends they return to their farm in the hills and it’s there Edward finds John Philip Duck, named for the composer whose marches Edward listens to on the radio. Edward has to look after the scrawny duckling during the week, so he risks the ire of the hotel manager by taking John Philip with him. The expected occurs when Mr. Shutt finds the duckling. The blustery manager makes Edward a deal. If Edward can train John Philip to swim in the hotel fountain all day (and lure in more customers), Edward and the duck can stay. After much hard work, John Philip learns to stay put and Edward becomes the first Duck Master at the hotel. This half-imagined story of the first of the famous Peabody Hotel ducks is one of Polacco’s most charming efforts to date. Her signature illustrations are a bit brighter and full of the music of the march. An excellent read aloud for older crowds, but the ever-so-slightly anthropomorphic ducks will come across best shared one-on-one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-24262-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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