Instead of breaking bones, this warrior princess breaks the mold—and Beaton is in a class of her own.

THE PRINCESS AND THE PONY

A half-pint warrior princess wants a battle-ready horse for her birthday but instead receives a little farting pony—who brilliantly defies all expectation.

Pinecone is small and young, and normally she receives cozy sweaters for presents, but she has a warrior’s determination. With this, she attempts to train her sweet, round pony—but to no avail. They are clearly outmatched at the big battle, yet Pinecone shows her mettle, and under the pony’s innocent gaze, hardened warriors melt into sweater-wearing softies. The artist’s digital illustrations, done in an earthy palette, have a warm, handcrafted feel. As majestic horses, iconic warriors (from Genghis Khan to Robin Hood), and cool tools are juxtaposed with Pinecone and her vacant-eyed pony, differences in stature, weaponry, and achievement are cleverly emphasized. Cinematic in layout and perfectly set-dressed, each page will elicit a new round of giggles. Beaton blurs the boundaries of traditional storytelling, marrying fantasy elements to pop culture with a free-associative swagger. This emerging genre, with its zinelike irreverence and joyful comedy, is hip, modern, and absolutely refreshing. Where else can readers find hipster warriors, anime influences, perfectly placed fart jokes, a hidden ugly-sweater contest, and a skirmish packed with delightful nonsense (llamas! knights! hot dogs! turtle costumes!)—and have it all make such wonderful sense?

Instead of breaking bones, this warrior princess breaks the mold—and Beaton is in a class of her own. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-63708-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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