The knee-slapping humor, retro feel of the illustrations and the included recipe for Willy’s special sauce serve up some...


Many people boast that their barbecue is out of this world, but Willy’s fine-smelling and lip-smacking meal attracts visitors from outer space.

McCauley chooses a sweltering palette of yellow, brown and peach to cast the hardworking farmer on a hot Texas day. Observant readers will spot the flying saucer approaching as twilight falls. Soon, the inky black of space descends with the spaceship: “Some colored lights from outer space / Are lightin’ up the whole dang place!” Here, pastel shots of color serve to spotlight the alarmed animals on the farm, while a sinuous, pale yellow, wavy band of smoke wafts through the scene. The amazing aroma has drawn the “small green men” out to sample the fare and dance a “DO-SI-DO…a-fore [they] go.” They claim, “We don’t want your leader, Willy, / Just your BARBECUE and chili.” Duval chooses just the right amount of Texas twang to spice up the lively rhyming text. But soon, the aliens have taken over like unwanted party guests. They have had fun, wreaked some havoc and left the farm damaged. So Willy and his pet cat and dog board the UFO. A gatefold opens to show a map of their travels in space. The other side reveals the destination—a planet where various ET’s are enjoying a meal and some music at Willy’s new restaurant.

The knee-slapping humor, retro feel of the illustrations and the included recipe for Willy’s special sauce serve up some spicy preschool fun. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2255-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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The action of this rhymed and humorous tale centers upon a mouse who "took a stroll/through the deep dark wood./A fox saw the mouse/and the mouse looked good." The mouse escapes being eaten by telling the fox that he is on his way to meet his friend the gruffalo (a monster of his imagination), whose favorite food is roasted fox. The fox beats a hasty retreat. Similar escapes are in store for an owl and a snake; both hightail it when they learn the particulars: tusks, claws, terrible jaws, eyes orange, tongue black, purple prickles on its back. When the gruffalo suddenly materializes out of the mouse's head and into the forest, the mouse has to think quick, declaring himself inedible as the "scariest creature in the deep dark wood," and inviting the gruffalo to follow him to witness the effect he has on the other creatures. When the gruffalo hears that the mouse's favorite food is gruffalo crumble, he runs away. It's a fairly innocuous tale, with twists that aren't sharp enough and treachery that has no punch. Scheffler's funny scenes prevent the suspense from culminating; all his creatures, predator and prey, are downright lovable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2386-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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Egg-stra special.


The creators of Pick a Pine Tree (2017) and Pick a Pumpkin (2019) cover each step of a popular Easter tradition.

The first stop for a light-skinned caregiver and child is the farm. Peering into the henhouse, they spot an egg (reminding readers that eggs don’t originate at the grocery store). More eggs are collected throughout the spring countryside and brought home, ready to hard boil. While the eggs are cooling, it’s time to prepare the dye! The lively text highlights natural methods first (“Stew some plants / to make a brew: / beets turn eggs / a rosy hue. / Spinach? Green! / Berries? Blue! / Try some herbs / or spices, too”) but also gives a nod to store-bought kits. After a full day of egg decorating, the youngster wakes up the next morning for a festive neighborhood egg hunt. Happily, treats found inside plastic eggs are not limited to sugar only; they include secret notes, tiny toys, and coins, too. (The child adds their dyed eggs to this bounty.) Sprays of bright greens, a shining sun, and dotted buds on trees as well as pastel bunting and fuzzy bunny ears and flower crowns on little ones bring a light, airy lift to this joyful community gathering. The children involved in the egg hunt are diverse in skin tone. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Egg-stra special. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2847-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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