A tad didactic, but Calvin does look cool.

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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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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