A book to teach kindergartners not to swindle home-building contractors, in case they need that.


A greedy pig gets a big comeuppance after shortchanging artisans building his new home.

After coming into a fortune, Pig makes plans for a home that befits his new wealth. He enlists a cat, a dog, and a hen to do the work, enthusiastically promising four gold coins for the build-out. Pig’s modest brick home (echoing, of course, “The Three Little Pigs”) is not enough; he demands more and more until the hardworking animals have built a huge mansion. When Pig is finally happy, he gives them four gold coins to share, not four coins each, throwing in another two as a bonus. The unhappy crew returns at night to take half of the home, literally (“Fair is fair,” is an ongoing refrain), leaving the structure to wobble and fall on Pig, all 7,000 bricks of it. Most surprising: The collapse kills Pig. The End. The notion that Pig dies over a business deal might raise lots of questions, and the abrupt finale offers no comfort or information on what happens to the aggrieved but murderous builders. The consequences of bad business are pretty serious despite the bright color palette and cute character designs. Perhaps it’s a good lesson to teach early, but Cotton, author of the exquisitely stark The Road Home, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (2016), does it without the finesse of her previous work. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

A book to teach kindergartners not to swindle home-building contractors, in case they need that. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72841-578-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Hee haw.

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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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This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for...


From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 1

A gentle voice and familiar pitfalls characterize this tale of a boy navigating the risky road to responsibility. 

Gavin is new to his neighborhood and Carver Elementary. He likes his new friend, Richard, and has a typically contentious relationship with his older sister, Danielle. When Gavin’s desire to impress Richard sets off a disastrous chain of events, the boy struggles to evade responsibility for his actions. “After all, it isn’t his fault that Danielle’s snow globe got broken. Sure, he shouldn’t have been in her room—but then, she shouldn’t be keeping candy in her room to tempt him. Anybody would be tempted. Anybody!” opines Gavin once he learns the punishment for his crime. While Gavin has a charming Everyboy quality, and his aversion to Aunt Myrtle’s yapping little dog rings true, little about Gavin distinguishes him from other trouble-prone protagonists. He is, regrettably, forgettable. Coretta Scott King Honor winner English (Francie, 1999) is a teacher whose storytelling usually benefits from her day job. Unfortunately, the pizzazz of classroom chaos is largely absent from this series opener.

This outing lacks the sophistication of such category standards as Clementine; here’s hoping English amps things up for subsequent volumes. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-97044-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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