Pete sucks the substance from these words of wisdom and guidance; for avowed lovers of Pete the Cat only.


From the Pete the Cat series

A string of aphorisms and inspirational quotations are glossed and illustrated by that groovy blue cat.

The results are predictably simplistic. Pablo Picasso’s “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up” is reduced by Pete to “It’s cool to color outside the lines!” The picture Pete is coloring in the accompanying illustration looks generically childlike, with no hint of cubist genius nor even many violations of the lines. Confucius’ “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” becomes “Keep it simple! Chill out!”; Pete lolls in a hammock and lifts a glass in one fingerless paw. That attitude carries over in demeanor if not setting for Thomas Edison’s wry and pointed “Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Pete, duly dressed in overalls, perches on a tractor. Though he tells readers, “Amazing things happen when you work hard!” his trademark heavy-lidded, couldn’t-care-less gaze does not bespeak a hard worker; unsurprisingly, there is no hint of anything “amazing” in the surrounding picture, which is just a wash of green. Trite though many of these sayings have become, they still offer far more opportunities for invention and illustration than Dean seems able to find in them.

Pete sucks the substance from these words of wisdom and guidance; for avowed lovers of Pete the Cat only. (Picture book. 4-84)

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-235135-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 12, 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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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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