Since young readers' interest in superheroes begins before they are typically ready for comic books, this lovely if thinly...


Muth has earned admiration as a picture-book author/illustrator and as a comic-book artist; here, he expands the Dark Knight's origin story for a picture-book audience.

After a night at the movies, Bruce Wayne and his parents (inexplicably) walk through a dark alley, where Bruce's parents are shot and killed. (The violence is indicated by Bruce's surprised face, illuminated by the flash of gunpowder, and his parents' fallen hat and scarf.) The lonely boy is tended by the loving butler Alfred, who keeps Wayne Manor lit day and night to hold his young master's newfound fear of the dark at bay (presumably the titular dark secret). One day Bruce falls into a cavern beneath his property, where he faces down a ludicrously monstrous bat and finds bravery and his life's work. The story's logic suffers with its spurious expansion. How does facing the bat help Bruce conquer his fear of the dark? If it’s meant to be a symbolic embodiment of that fear, that’s not clear. The pages between his parents' murders and his confrontation with the bat are filled with grieving, not a burgeoning need to bring justice to a crime-filled world. But Muth's watercolors are breathtaking.

Since young readers' interest in superheroes begins before they are typically ready for comic books, this lovely if thinly plotted picture book fills an important niche—though they may wonder where the action is. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-86755-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


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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