THE LIZARD

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 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

From the Fly Guy series

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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