Despite the alluring artwork, this is a half-baked tale.



Lemmings aren’t exactly known for their anti-establishment nonconformity, except for Briggs’ Larry, or is it Mary?

Lemmings live up north, up on a tundra colored in Slater’s lovely swaths of pistachio green, ballpark-mustard yellow, and tangerine orange. Living in this particular slice of the Arctic is a lemming that also happens to be an odd duck. “Call me Larry,” he informs his indistinguishable mates. “What’s a Larry?” asks one lemming. “I hear he wants to be called Mary,” says another. In the accompanying illustration, Larry is wearing a grass skirt, lei, and hibiscus behind one ear. (If this is meant to open an inquiry into gender identity, it’s not pursued.) Larry just doesn’t cotton to the lemming way of life: burrowing, eating moss, jumping off cliffs en masse. So he tries life with his other friends: the puffins, seals, and polar bears. But the seals are too noisy, the puffins live on cliffs, and the bears appear to be sizing Larry up for lunch (some friends). So it is back to the lemmings, now merrily running toward the cliff’s edge. This can’t be good, no matter the genetic impulse, thinks Larry, so he bolts to the front and steers them clear of the wayward impulse by leading them to his cabin, where they eat pepperoni pizza. No more “Follow the Leader”—now it’s “Follow the Larry.” Lemmings, evidently, never learn.

Despite the alluring artwork, this is a half-baked tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1819-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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