Original and thoroughly delightful.

SPENCER'S NEW PET

A boy is devoted to his new pet in this wordless adventure.

From the beginning there is something a bit mysterious and intriguing about this book. Endpapers mimic old-time movie countdowns—“3-2-1”—as if it were a show, and the story itself is divided by black title cards. Viewers are introduced to a child with a small, red balloon dog on a string, possibly made by a clown seen peeking from a tent. Spencer feeds it, reads to it, bathes it, sleeps with it, and takes it to the vet. During a walk in the park a gust of wind tugs the leash from Spencer’s hand. An exhausting chase ensues, involving a carousel, an encounter with a sharp-toothed bulldog, and more before landing them both in the middle of a birthday party where there are many more balloon animals. A game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey leads to disaster—and an amazing, incredible surprise. As befitting the vintage-movie conceit, there are close-ups, wide-angles, and multiple vignettes of the breathless, careening chase across the pages. The illustrations are in shades of black, white, and gray with only the red dog providing a splash of color. Spencer presents white, but there is diversity in the depictions of the additional characters. Young readers will be tickled and amazed and will want to view it again and again.

Original and thoroughly delightful. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1877-6

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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