A charming, child-friendly take on the ever-popular new-baby theme.

PENNY AND HER SONG

From the Penny series

Penny sings a joyful song that resonates in her happy mouse family.

At first Mama and Papa are reluctant to hear the song that Penny made up, because they fear she might wake the babies. So she sings to herself in the mirror and to her collection of glass animals, but that’s not very satisfying. Finally, after dinner she sings her song, and her parents make a real show of it, wearing costumes and singing with her again and again. All this excitement tires everyone and puts the babies to sleep in their basket. At bedtime, Penny worries that she will forget her song by morning, but when she wakes up, her special song is still with her. Penny joins Lilly and Owen in Henkes’ pantheon of mouse children. She is delightfully human as she seeks to divert her parents’ attention from the new babies. Henkes’ signature crisp and bright watercolor-and-ink illustrations depict every action and emotion and appear in a variety of shapes and sizes, centered in line with large print text and surrounded by white space. He has visited this theme before, in Julius the Baby of the World, but here there is no overt jealousy, and the sweetness level is higher.

A charming, child-friendly take on the ever-popular new-baby theme. (Early reader. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208195-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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