BEWARE OF THE STORYBOOK WOLVES

Child fractures a few fairy tales, and the wolves get it in the chops once again, in this story of a young boy and his bedtime worries. Herb's mom reads him "Little Red Riding Hood" every night. Herb loves it—that wolf gives him a chilling pleasure—but he wants his mom to take the book with her when she goes. One night she mistakenly leaves it behind and sure enough, two wolves materialize and propose to sup on Herb. Herb delays his demise by suggesting that little boys are really a dessert course and the wolves ought to start with appetizers. At that point, other fairy tales start becoming involved: "This was bad luck for Herb because the wicked fairy hated little boys only slightly less than she hated little girls. They made her nervous. She'd seen what those little brats Hansel and Gretel had done to that poor defenseless witch." The Little Wolf gets sent to the ball in Cinderella's dress—“Which of course left Cinderella having a night in, cleaning the kitchen after all"—and the other gets transformed into a caterpillar by the Fairy Godmother, saving Herb's bacon, and giving the story a rather abrupt conclusion. Not quite as devilish as a Scieszka/Smith production, but just a step shy and with the same sophisticated, crackpot patter that may likely zoom right over young listeners' heads while pleasing adult readers. Child's trademark ink-and-wash and collage artwork, filled with sly wit, scraggly wolves, and goofy humans plays with perspective and placement of text, adding just the right over-the-top lunacy. Don’t miss the Little Wolf in heels, hairy legs, and party dress being dipped by the prince on the dance floor. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-20500-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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