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

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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. 29, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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