THE BEST WORST POET EVER

An interspecies war of verse!

An orange-and-white cat channels Shakespeare, feathered quill in paw, while his creative nemesis—a pug—clacks away at a green typewriter. The origin of the two foes’ conflict isn’t quite clear, but they battle in rhyming couplets, haiku, and galloping verse. “I hope it shan’t disturb you that I plan to write some poems today,” Cat begins. “I hope it ‘shan’t’ disturb you, Cat, that I intend to do the same,” Pug retorts. The ensuing scansion and prosody are remarkable, making for a truly rollicking read-aloud with extreme emotional highs. Both animals are fat and joyous, Cat’s dignity neatly offset by Pug’s crude hilarity: “Can I write a poem with my butt? / I don’t know! / Oh can I write a poem with my butt? / Here I go!” In the illustration, Pug’s fuzzy posterior hovers above the typewriter. There are even some moments of poetic instruction toward the end, when the two animals reconcile their differences and collaborate: “If a line is too long… / then we can enjamb it! / If a rhyme’s almost rhyming… / it’s not wrong; it’s just slanted!” It starts to drag in the middle, as this is slightly longer than an average picture book, but there’s plenty of humor and energy to keep audiences large and small enthralled.

Delightful. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4628-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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