MOSQUITOES CAN'T BITE NINJAS

A mosquito doesn’t stand a chance against a ninja.

While clearly intended as a humorous text about a pesky mosquito and a pint-sized “ninja,” the depiction of the latter brings up troublesome characterization matters. The opening text declares that “mosquitoes bite all kinds of people,” and the cartoon-style art (reminiscent of Kate Beaton’s work) provides an aerial view of the insect zooming toward a diverse community. The ninja is depicted apart from this community, is assigned no pronouns, and is always clad in black clothing that leaves only eyes visible. The ninja’s skin is light brown—a darker shade than some people in the earlier depicted characters and lighter than others—and the ninja is described as “sneakier” and “quicker” than the mosquito. In the picture depicting quickness, the ninja sits cross-legged on the ground and, with narrowed eyes glancing to the side, grabs the mosquito in midair with twigs held like chopsticks. Combined, these cues reinforce Asian stereotypes. The child-sized ninja doesn’t appear to be playing pretend, nor to belong to a family, but is joined by a “baby ninja” who wears colorful clothes and a ninja mask. The story’s resolution arrives when, instead of being bitten, the ninja bites (and evidently swallows) the mosquito when it gets stuck in a jam sandwich, delivering a bizarre end to the fraught tale.

Pass. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68119-215-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Sweet fare for bed- or naptimes, with a light frosting of natural history.

WOODLAND DREAMS

A sonorous, soporific invitation to join woodland creatures in bedding down for the night.

As in her Moon Babies, illustrated by Amy Hevron (2019), Jameson displays a rare gift for harmonious language and rhyme. She leads off with a bear: “Come home, Big Paws. / Berry picker / Honey trickster / Shadows deepen in the glen. / Lumber back inside your den.” Continuing in the same pattern, she urges a moose (“Velvet Nose”), a deer (“Tiny Hooves”), and a succession of ever smaller creatures to find their nooks and nests as twilight deepens in Boutavant’s woodsy, autumnal scenes and snow begins to drift down. Through each of those scenes quietly walks an alert White child (accompanied by an unusually self-controlled pooch), peering through branches or over rocks at the animals in the foregrounds and sketching them in a notebook. The observer’s turn comes round at last, as a bearded parent beckons: “This way, Small Boots. / Brave trailblazer / Bright stargazer / Cabin’s toasty. Blanket’s soft. / Snuggle deep in sleeping loft.” The animals go unnamed, leaving it to younger listeners to identify each one from the pictures…if they can do so before the verses’ murmurous tempo closes their eyes.

Sweet fare for bed- or naptimes, with a light frosting of natural history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7063-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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