Even children who can’t yet read will get at least a portion of the joke.

TEN BIRDS

Ten birds frolic in fractured count-down number rhymes.

Ten birds, most with identifying hats and cloaks, open this series of misfortunes in a wordless double-page spread showing a concert that, from their expressions, must be more cacophonous than musical. Then disaster happens: “Ten fine birds were sitting in a line / When the fence got smashed, / which was not a good sign, / So then there were NIGN.” Similar calamities follow, each with its ending number misspelled to fit the rhyme. The verses appear on the left-hand pages, along with a pictorial hint about which bird will disappear. On the facing page, bordered at the top and bottom with white, are Gebert’s illustrations of each catastrophe. (Some details are left for readers’ imaginations, as when the “six scared birds” encounter a crocodile.) But all ends well. Readers will have to judge for themselves whether it’s the parent owl or child that leaves the nest to “WUN,” but the eggs inside miraculously hatch all 10 again. They end the tale with a quiet picnic. Wilson's clever translation of the German Mit großem Krach: Vom Reimen auf Biegen und Brechen (2012) preserves the tortured rhymes and most of the mispronunciations of the numbers.

Even children who can’t yet read will get at least a portion of the joke. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4100-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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