Encore, encore for kid lit’s ap-peel-ing new primate.



From the Mr. Monkey series

Monkey + banana = recipe for delicious cake…or delicious comedy?

In this first installment of a new series, the answer comes in two courses. Balancing cooking and banana-eating, bipedal primate Mr. Monkey clumsily bakes his entry for the upcoming cake show. But the route to the show contains many obstacles—and some are hungry for Mr. Monkey’s precious prizewinner-to-be. Pratfall after pratfall, readers will laugh and wonder if the cake will make it to the competition in one piece. The simultaneously published companion title, Mr. Monkey Visits a School, follows the same vaudeville formula: Mr. Monkey masters a new juggling trick and shares it at a school but only after lengthy, treacherous travels. In both stories, the narrator interacts with Mr. Monkey and provides running commentary of his antics. Characters’ speech is smartly confined only to interjections—“ooh,” “oops,” “eek,” “yum,” etc.—that play off the narrator’s matter-of-fact delivery with expert comedic timing. Though without chapters to separate parts of the story, the text’s economy of language (fewer than 90 vocabulary words and their variants) and repetition provide ample support for emergent readers. The slapstick humor is driven by Mack’s bold and colorful cartoon illustrations. The humans in Mr. Monkey’s neighborhood are diverse in skin tone. The cast also notably includes a tattooed, bearded bicyclist.

Encore, encore for kid lit’s ap-peel-ing new primate. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0431-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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Aims high but falls flat.


Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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