Offbeat nonsense humor of the highest order: not to be missed.

READ REVIEW

A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS

A menagerie of common creatures portrayed in uncommon ways.

This book riffing on animals’ collective nouns has the declarative force of a George R.R. Martin title and the head-tilting creativity of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons. Debut author Lukoff’s pithy statements are so bold and unexpected that each of the dozen or so situations described is presented in a double-page spread and given wide—though richly colored—illustrative berth. The volume opens on a cryptic note: “The nuisance of cats blamed it on the dog,” immediately driving readers to Nelson’s vivid mixed-media illustration, on the hunt for what “it” might be. While Nelson’s witty depiction rewards (a group of bemused cats sits loosely lassoed together by a few loops of yarn with a lone strand leading back to the mouth of a sleeping dog), one must still infer both what “it” is (cats tied up, a skein of yarn used for ulterior purposes?) and who’s really being considered the “nuisance”—the cat posse or the dog? Each of Lukoff’s seemingly arbitrary declarations operates similarly, employing sophisticated vocabulary and some behavioral characteristics of the animals described—monkeys, giraffes, sheep, frogs, the eponymous ravens—to paint a scene, perhaps the most hilarious and poetic of which involves hippos: “The bloat of hippopotamuses raced up the river. Five words: explosion at the cupcake factory.”

Offbeat nonsense humor of the highest order: not to be missed. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-912-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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