Not too amusing, not too original, not too necessary.



From the Teddy the Dog series

Teddy is a large, gray-brown dog who enjoys his life as “leader of the pack,” until he receives the unwanted present of a cat companion.

The big dog’s first-person narrative is written in an overconfident, boastful tone, presenting him as “charming and fetching,” though he is proud to say he “never actually fetches.” He never takes off his sunglasses as he moves from one mischievous mess to another: upending a hot dog stand, putting his paw prints on a freshly painted house, and getting into the neighbor’s trash can. But Teddy’s life changes when his aunt sends him a huge package containing a cat that needs a new home. Teddy tries to indoctrinate Penelope the cat in his idea of proper (canine) behavior, but she has her own way of doing things. In a characterization-defying conclusion, Teddy decides to cooperate, take a nap with the cat in his favorite armchair, and bump paws together, which he considers acting like a cat. Teddy’s annoying, superior attitude falls flat, as he just seems full of himself rather than funny. Bold cartoon-style illustrations provide some humor with Teddy’s antics, but he never really comes alive as a character due to the sunglasses covering his eyes in all the illustrations. Penelope, or Fishbreath as Teddy calls her, has more personality, but she is unbelievably pliant for a newly arrived cat.

Not too amusing, not too original, not too necessary. (Picture book.3-7)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238283-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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