Clever, funny, and true—really.

SORRY (REALLY SORRY)

A chain reaction of spiteful words and actions ricochets across a farmyard until an act of kindness turns things around.

It all starts with Cow. Cross because she’s hoof deep in mud, the usually placid Holstein flicks mud onto Duck. Cranky because of Cow’s actions and unwillingness to apologize, Duck insults her friend Frog and proffers only an insincere apology. Frog criticizes Bird and refuses to feel remorse. Bird chases Goat from a space they normally share, then Goat butts Pig. Tenderhearted Pig, in turn, cries her eyes out. When Dog comes along to find out what’s the matter, Pig passes on the pique, but Dog refuses to bite. He patiently waits through Pig’s emotional storm, then reminds her of their long-standing friendship. Dog’s compassion prompts a sincere apology, which then boomerangs back through the other animals. The entertaining text moves briskly, filled with interactions that will be amusingly familiar to both readers and listeners. Although they possess the power of speech, the animals are portrayed relatively realistically in Bliss’ expressive ink-and-watercolor cartoons. The farm setting includes enough detail to ground the story without distraction from the action while the simply drawn faces, particularly the animals’ eyes, convey an impressive range of emotions. An exploration of the repercussions of a bad mood could have turned into a pedantic moral tale, but Cotler and Bliss’ light touch and humorous approach offer insight without judgment.

Clever, funny, and true—really. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984-81247-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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