Mr. Monkey gives Curious George a run for his money. But at what cost? (Early reader. 4-8)



Mr. Monkey is back, and he’s in it to win it with his latest hobby: gaming.

No matter how hard he tries, Mr. Monkey just can’t beat his video game. Before his third try even has a chance to be the charm, a bird makes off with the controller. Mr. Monkey chases the bird through the city and into the park, begrudgingly taking an outdoor break from screen time. The view, the trees, and the flowers elicit “Ooh!” after “Ooh!” as Mr. Monkey begins to enjoy the respite. But as soon as he spots the bandit bird in the tree, the real-life game is back on. Mr. Monkey “runs…ducks…climbs…swings…jumps [and] falls”—just like in the video game. The moment the controller ends up back in his hands, though, a new obstacle arises. Mr. Monkey loses again. And again. Will he ever catch a break? Mack’s digitally rendered cartoon illustrations outshine those in previous volumes, depicting gorgeously colored nature scenes and a fun, pixelated video-game world. Characters’ speech solely consists of interjections, adding to the slapstick humor. Mack’s mastery of repetition expertly recycles sentences (and a vocabulary of around 70 words), adding new meaning through illustration and context. Unfortunately, the recycled silly-monkey stereotype needs to take a hike of its own.

Mr. Monkey gives Curious George a run for his money. But at what cost? (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0433-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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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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