An amusing twist that will make readers wonder about the meaning of a really well-trained crocodile.



Cindy Lou and her miniature poodle Fifi become just desserts at the school pet show.

Kulka introduces readers to Ernest as Ernest is introducing his pet crocodile, Gustave, to his friends while they get ready for the school pet show. Cindy Lou, a sniffy brat, says that Gustave should be banned. “What a stupid pet….He’ll bite everybody!” His crocodile doesn’t bite, says Ernest. He is well-behaved and does tricks, like juggle and ride a unicycle. But Cindy Lou keeps up her barrage of insults—and dastardly deeds like tripping Gustave—her face screwed into a rictus of disdain. She is such a nasty, sneering piece of work that it comes as a pleasure when she accidentally bounces a ball into Gustave’s maw. Cindy Lou and Fifi enter in pursuit, and well, it turns out that Gustave may not bite, but he has a great capacity to swallow. Au revoir, Cindy Lou, ma chère. Kulka softens the story at the very end, though it still packs a surprising punch. There is a pillowy softness to Gustave, though the rest of the characters have a crisp gaiety, all but you-know-who—Kulka draws Cindy Lou very broadly; still, into every life a Cindy Lou will fall.

An amusing twist that will make readers wonder about the meaning of a really well-trained crocodile. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8937-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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Hee haw.

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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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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...


From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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