COURTNEY

One of Britain's most thoughtful and creative picture-book makers gives a familiar scenario his own inimitable spin. When "the children" beg for a dog, the usual debate ensues. Permission finally granted, the boy and girl ignore their parents' admonition ("Make sure it's a proper dog. One with a pedigree") and request "a dog that nobody wants." The parents are horrified when they bring home a mongrel, but Courtney turns out to be a paragon who cooks delicious meals, plays the violin, cleans the house, and rescues the baby when a fire breaks out. Still, when he disappears, the parents observe that, "If they are not thoroughbreds, you cannot rely on them." In a final sequence the kids are saved from drifting out to sea by a hero identified only in the background of an illustration as their erstwhile dog. Appropriate to the gently ironic tone and carefully understated subtext, Burningham's pictures here are in his familiar cartoon mode, poignantly expressive but without the marvelously vibrant alternating spreads he has often used to express a child's imagination or emotions (e.g., in John Patrick Norman McHennessy... [1988]). Witty, well told, and superbly illustrated. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0099666812

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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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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THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE

Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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