Not the best introduction to the country in terms of either facts or a geography lesson.

AUSTIN, LOST IN AMERICA

A GEOGRAPHY ADVENTURE

A pet-store dog tired of not having a home escapes and heads across the country in search of one.

Austin, who appears to be some sort of terrier, explores the country by region, beginning in the Northeast with Maine. But although each state has some fascinating tidbit to share (some more substantial than others), none is a perfect fit for Austin. Hershey, Pennsylvania, is the home of Hershey chocolate; the world’s largest fire hydrant is in Columbia, South Carolina; and a town in West Virginia hosts an annual water-tasting competition. While many of the early states feature some solid facts, their overall relevance seems to decline as Austin’s search goes on, each state reduced to one or two, sometimes clichéd, bits of trivia (Alaska’s Iditarod, New Mexico’s hot air balloon festival, the hula in Hawaii). Each state entry presents the outline of the state, the capital clearly labeled, but readers will have to turn to the endpapers to see where each state fits into the larger map of the U.S. (Endpapers also label the capitals, block the regions by color, and show Austin’s route.) Cartoon ink illustrations colored in Photoshop use panels and spreads to cram as many states as possible into limited space.

Not the best introduction to the country in terms of either facts or a geography lesson. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-228017-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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