MARSUPIAL SUE

Marsupial Sue must learn that lesson that so many picture-book heroes and heroines have learned before: just be yourself and follow your own “marsupial star,” whatever that felicitous phrase might mean. “If you’re a kangaroo through and through, just do what kangaroos do.” This obvious and previously explored idea is one that beginning children’s authors are warned against, but actor Lithgow (who made a remarkable debut with The Remarkable Farkle McBride, 2000) and Davis (illustrator of the Zack Files series) manage to make both the concept and their delightful heroine fresh and worthwhile. Davis’s super-sized Sue is a delight, dressed in a sundress, straw hat, and sturdy sandals accessorized with a diamond ring, pearls, and heart-shaped sunglasses. She unsuccessfully tries climbing up a tree with a crowd of koalas and lounging at the shore eating seafood with a platypus, but both excursions leave her with a long list of ailments from migraine to typhoid. When she meets a wallaby and his cousins, she realizes from their behavior (very similar to that of related kangaroos) that her life isn’t so bad after all. The story is actually a song that Lithgow performs in his children’s concerts, and a CD of Lithgow singing Sue’s story is included, along with the musical score. The oversized format, double-page spreads, and professional, witty CD make this a natural for reading aloud (and singing along) with a group. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-84394-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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 POUT-POUT FISH

The pout-pout fish, painted a suitable blue, is so named for his perpetual gloom: “I’m a pout-pout fish / With a pout-pout face, / So I spread the dreary-wearies / All over the place.” When a jellyfish complains about his “daily scaly scowl,” the glum fish agrees, but says his mood isn’t up to him. A squid, dubbing the fish “a kaleidoscope of mope,” receives the same defeatist answer, as do other sea creatures. Up to this point, the story is refreshing in that readers will no doubt recognize the pout-pout fish in their own lives, and in many cases, there’s just no cheering these people up. But the plot takes a rather unpalatable turn when a shimmery girl fish kisses the gloomster right on his pouty mouth. With that kiss, he transforms into the “kiss-kiss fish” and swims around “spreading cheery-cheeries all over the place,” meaning that he starts to smooch every creature in sight. (Don’t try this at school, kids, you’ll get suspended!) Still, there’s plenty of charm here, both in the playful language (“hulky-bulky sulking!”) and in the winning artwork—Hanna’s cartoonish undersea world swims with hilarious bug-eyed creatures that ooze personality. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-36096-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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