Fans will want to emulate the style and voice of this funny homework saga. (Picture book. 5-8)

MY FAVORITE PETS

BY GUS W. FOR MS. SMOLINSKI'S CLASS

During the opening scene, in which Gus hands the teacher his report and a wrapped present, kindred spirits will suspect that there’s a story behind his extra-dazzling smile.

The protagonist lives on a farm with his parents, a younger brother, and 17 sheep. (Both humans and sheep are white.) His paper views the animals through his unique lens, starting with gender: “A girl sheep is a ewe. If you say, ‘Hey, Ewe,’ she won’t answer.” He describes trading his sibling for a lamb and trying to teach the flock how to skateboard. It is when he shepherds the lot into the house that chaos erupts. In combination with her preposterous situations, Birdsall’s deadpan narrative leaves plenty of room for Bliss to invent comedic scenes. Children will chuckle as the sheep wreak havoc: spaghetti-sauce tracks are traceable to the culprit sporting shades and underwear, a painting frames a bemused face, and sofa stuffing serves as dinner. The bucolic watercolor-and-ink compositions portray wooly creatures that are generally phlegmatic and brothers who enjoy comic books as much as they do their ovine companions. Text appears on old-school penmanship lines and in dialogue bubbles. To her credit (and despite losing a scarf to the cause), Ms. Smolinski seems to appreciate her student’s creativity and affection for his pets.

Fans will want to emulate the style and voice of this funny homework saga. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75570-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with...

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CREEPY PAIR OF UNDERWEAR!

Reynolds and Brown have crafted a Halloween tale that balances a really spooky premise with the hilarity that accompanies any mention of underwear.

Jasper Rabbit needs new underwear. Plain White satisfies him until he spies them: “Creepy underwear! So creepy! So comfy! They were glorious.” The underwear of his dreams is a pair of radioactive-green briefs with a Frankenstein face on the front, the green color standing out all the more due to Brown’s choice to do the entire book in grayscale save for the underwear’s glowing green…and glow they do, as Jasper soon discovers. Despite his “I’m a big rabbit” assertion, that glow creeps him out, so he stuffs them in the hamper and dons Plain White. In the morning, though, he’s wearing green! He goes to increasing lengths to get rid of the glowing menace, but they don’t stay gone. It’s only when Jasper finally admits to himself that maybe he’s not such a big rabbit after all that he thinks of a clever solution to his fear of the dark. Brown’s illustrations keep the backgrounds and details simple so readers focus on Jasper’s every emotion, writ large on his expressive face. And careful observers will note that the underwear’s expression also changes, adding a bit more creep to the tale.

Perfect for those looking for a scary Halloween tale that won’t leave them with more fears than they started with. Pair with Dr. Seuss’ tale of animate, empty pants. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0298-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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