Charming and technologically interesting, but otherwise uninspiring.

READ REVIEW

BABEL, THE KING

A feline megalomaniac appoints himself king, gathers subjects and subsequently has a showdown with his mortal enemies—the clouds.

Even though the storyline is weak, author/developer Maaloul has infused this app with commendable elements of originality and creativity. The laser-sharp illustrations are anchored by muted shades of blue and green, while bolder hues are reserved for the characters and their surroundings. Animation is smooth and consistent, and there’s an interactive “help” layer that can either be set to automatic (meaning it's superimposed over every page) or summoned when needed by touching the question-mark icon. Readers can tap, swipe and tilt the tablet to muster movement and sound. One particularly delightful page features a cyclone that sends objects flying Wizard of Oz–style, triggered by blowing on the screen. Narration, which can be switched off or on, is engaging and adds a distinct dramatic flair, but the title pages between each page are definitely overkill, making for a horrendously choppy reading experience. As for music, there doesn’t appear to be a way to turn it off without killing the sound altogether, even though the developer’s website lists “music control” as one of the app’s features. The premise of the story is imaginative, but it’s never really clear whether the main emphasis is on Babel’s ongoing feud with the clouds or his delusional attempts at self-exaltation.

Charming and technologically interesting, but otherwise uninspiring. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 13, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: EPIC Agency

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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