’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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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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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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