A must-read—for pet lovers and even for those not yet convinced.



Tutu-wearing Sophia packs determination, whimsy, and a plethora of strategies to handle a passel of impressive words.

One small, vivacious, loquacious little brown girl dreams of her One True Desire: a pet giraffe for her birthday. Sophia must first convince Mother, a judge; Father, a businessman; Uncle Conrad, a politician; and Grand-mamá, the strictest of them all. Sophia crafts consecutive speeches to build a case for the judge, a cost analysis for the businessman, and a poll (of her toys) for the politician. To counter accusations that her pleas are too “effusive,” “loquacious,” and “verbose,” Sophia pares down the language with each ask until Grand-mamá hears just one word. From the first page to the last, Sophia’s energy, creativity, and innovative critical thinking will entertain both adults and children. Whether readers see this as a mixed-race family or a family of color with a broad spectrum of skin tones, this book offers a mirror for a wide variety of readers. Starting with the endpapers, the watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations depict the closeness of the family, their expectations of Sophia’s intellectual prowess, and her adeptness at employing all of the wiles of childhood to persuade. A concluding glossary explicates the advanced vocabulary with wit and warmth.

A must-read—for pet lovers and even for those not yet convinced. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0514-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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