A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool.

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CALVIN, LOOK OUT!

A BOOKWORM BIRDIE GETS GLASSES

A starling gets spectacular specs.

Something’s wrong at book-loving Calvin’s library: Words look blurry, and he trips over a chair. The librarian opines farsightedness, so Calvin researches it, then visits the optometrist. An eye test and a fitting later, Calvin proudly heads home sporting brand-new “spectacles, as he prefer[s] to call them.” Merciless teasing ensues from his scoffing flock, but Calvin doesn’t mind, recalling bespectacled luminaries he’s read about. Later, on a forest walk, he’s accidentally pinned under a huge rock. (His glasses don’t break.) Calvin remembers reading about how Archimedes once used mirrors to reflect sunlight and save lives. Applying this principle, Calvin reflects sunlight with his glasses and successfully sends a distress signal to which his flock responds. Afterward Calvin recounts his adventure and how his glasses effected his rescue. Surprise: All the birds want glasses, too, in order to be “cool like Calvin,” and now all migrate in their own spectacular spectacles, cool and happy. The book means well and aims to assure new young eyeglass wearers they’re smart and will be readily accepted into their own flocks. However, the story’s more obviously preachy than convincing. The specs-wearing greats Calvin remembers—Gandhi, Ben Franklin and John Lennon—will be way over preschoolers’ heads. The watercolor illustrations are quirky and lively; colored words set in larger capitals highlight dramatic story points.

A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4549-0910-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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