HOW THE ELEPHANT GOT ITS TRUNK

A cheerful, curious, small-nosed young elephant’s quest to find out what crocodiles have for dinner leads her down to the river, where she finds out with terrifying immediacy that crocs like to eat young elephants, starting by grabbing their noses. She earns her trunk as she pulls backwards until the croc finally gives up, only to realize that her heretofore small nose has been stretched out. At first she doesn’t like her new appendage, but then realizes how useful it can be: she can wave to all her friends in the jungle, pull bananas off trees, and douse herself with mud and water when she needs to cool off. The other elephants admire her trunk so much that they go to the river to have their noses stretched by the crocodile. Realistic details about the uses of an elephant’s trunk blend intriguingly with imaginary elements, the combination wryly expressed by the answer and question at the end of the story: “And that is why elephants have trunks today. At least that is the story. Do you believe it?” The printer’s ink used in the stenciled illustrations provides especially rich, bright, textured colors that show up crisply against alternating backgrounds of clean white and solid black. The blocky, wood-cut look of the elephants, trees, and other forest denizens is deceptively simple; the mien of each of the animals aptly conveyed through facial expressions. The young, light-blue elephant is particularly appealing in her naïveté. Curious youngsters will appreciate this version of Kipling’s pourquoi tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8050-6699-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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Hee haw.

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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