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 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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