Tries for clever but doesn’t make it.


Be on the lookout! Wordplay is underway.

A mole named Under and a bird named Over play on a seesaw and swings. Simple declarative sentences explain where the pals are spatially as they use the equipment; their relative locations are depicted. From here, the pair begin to converse, so the prepositions over and under repeatedly appear in speech bubbles, paired with other words and set in boldface type throughout. Thus, dialogue emerges as commands, interjections, or occasional idiomatic expressions and puns—but it’s actually forming compound words. A story (ending with a sweet idiomatic phrase) develops and is expressed textually and visually: “Push, Over!” the mole yells from the swing, and “Under, Stand!” the bird demands when it wants a turn. Punctuation marks are used grammatically correctly, turning common (and not-so-common) compound words into phrases. Other examples of compound-word formation herein: “Over, eat?” “Under, cook,” “Over, done.” Unfortunately, the exercise does not amount to a satisfying story in itself. Adults will get the point; many children won’t, though some will recognize familiar compounds: overeat, understand, under/overcook, and underwear. (Here it’s punned “Under, Where?”) Occasionally, confusion reigns: Some word pairs that are boldfaced and set in speech balloons make no sense for the book’s apparent purposes because they aren’t compounds: “Over, There!”; “Dig, Dog!”; and “Down, Dog!” Colorful illustrations are energetic. An author’s note explains compound words and invites readers to locate those in the book, which are defined in a separate list. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Tries for clever but doesn’t make it. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-20355-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 36

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?

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

Did you like this book?