The author’s sly humor coupled with the illustrator’s whimsically dark details will surely have primary-grade readers...



Cyrus pens a collection sure to make the most poetry-averse at least smile if not laugh out loud.

A redheaded boy walks through a graveyard pondering the stories of those whose gravestones he passes. A lost ghost dog accompanies him. Each droll poem has an element of the absurd, ludicrous or revolting. Whether the rhyming verse describes a skeleton obsessed with flossing his every bone or chants about Freddie, who picked his nose so much he died, Scrambly cleverly illustrates each unfortunate specter with a style reminiscent of Edward Gorey’s. The backgrounds have a textured look and set off what looks like pen-and-ink drawings with mostly white fill. In the case of “McBuck Buck,” the blue-gray wash of color represents “a pool of community drool.” Even a familiar childhood rhyme provides inspiration: “Hoofprints. Feathers. Piles of dung! / Who is laid below? / Mysterious letters mark the stone: / EIEIO.” As the two wander, it is clear that the ghost pup and narrator are not terribly compatible. Eventually, they come across ghostly Ophelia Heft, who beckons to her dog from the clouds. By the book’s conclusion, though, the boy finds a new canine companion, orphaned when venal Mrs. McBride passed on.

The author’s sly humor coupled with the illustrator’s whimsically dark details will surely have primary-grade readers cackling. (Picture book/poetry. 5-8)

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3846-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Hee haw.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 45

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.


Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Did you like this book?