A pensive, allegorical fairy tale for readers ready to sit with perplexity.


Panic ensues when an unwelcome guest arrives.

A lizard appears in the Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal. It stops in the middle of the street, halting cars and causing an old woman to scream. People scatter in fear, planes fly overhead, all while the lizard remains mostly unperturbed. Finally, the people launch an attack, and, “thanks to the fairies,” the lizard “was transformed into a crimson rose.” The rose blooms, turns white, then becomes a dove. The narrator claims in the opening that “this is a fairy tale,” for “in what other kind of story would a lizard appear in Chiado?” Semantic arguments aside, this tale is high-concept fiction. With political-leaning overtones, the 1998 Nobel Prize–winning Saramago integrates overriding realism akin to Aesop with Carrollian exaggeration. Young non-Portuguese readers may need an older reader to help interpret the tale’s meaning (and the older reader may also need some outside help). Borges contributes bold, rustic woodcuts that leave plenty of room for symbolic interpretations. There is a visual lack of continuity between pages, with the described “green” lizard alternatively appearing in black and red shades while its head and number of legs also changes. Like the story itself, the translation challenges readers with sophisticated vocabulary.

A pensive, allegorical fairy tale for readers ready to sit with perplexity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60980-933-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet