A mild story with good characterization.



A dog and cat go astray and meet other animals in this children’s book.

Lexi is a well-mannered, intelligent, black-and-white cat who enjoys purring in her chair by a window. A flighty adventure is the last thing on her mind—but then her nap is interrupted by barking from Barney, a beagle who also has black-and-white fur, and who’s “not the brightest dog in Lawrenceville.” After joining her friend outside, Lexi agrees to scratch an itch that Barney can’t reach, but her claws get stuck in his collar. Just then, the dog catches sight of a gray squirrel and takes off up the alley, dragging poor Lexi with him. The beagle tears recklessly after the squirrel, even crossing a two-lane highway, but the squirrel eludes him, and by the time Barney is done with his chase, he and Lexi are hopelessly lost. As they wander, they meet Abby, a dog looking for her family’s cat, Chunk. Lexi and Barney leave her behind and make their way to an alley, where they enjoy some scraps and run into Chunk, to whom they pass along Abby’s message to return home. Later, Lexi is captured by a man in a red pickup truck who puts her in a cage, but Barney hops into the truck’s back and lets her out. They both escape, and after following familiar scents, they manage to make their way home. Fox (The Adventures of Marky, Slash & Levy, 2014) brings out the personalities of his animal characters well. Lexi speaks with formality and politesse, thinks ahead, and dislikes getting dirty; Barney is enthusiastic, down to earth, and rarely thinks beyond the present moment. There’s sweetness, too, as with the kind restaurant owner: “ ‘There you go darlings,’ said the man as he sat the plates in the alley. ‘Eat up.’ ” The animal catchers add a dramatic note of danger, along with the less dramatic but very real threat of getting run over by vehicles. (The Humane Society of the United States, it should be noted, recommends keeping cats indoors and giving dogs escape-proof shelter.) Otherwise, though, the friends’ adventure isn’t especially memorable, consisting mostly of wandering and a few chance encounters with other animals, which are pleasant but uneventful.

A mild story with good characterization.  

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5056-7026-4

Page Count: 52

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2017

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With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded.

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Tiny, sassy Bob the dog, friend of The One and Only Ivan (2012), returns to tell his tale.

Wisecracking Bob, who is a little bit Chihuahua among other things, now lives with his girl, Julia, and her parents. Happily, her father works at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary, the zoo where Bob’s two best friends, Ivan the gorilla and Ruby the elephant, live, so Bob gets to visit and catch up with them regularly. Due to an early betrayal, Bob doesn’t trust humans (most humans are good only for their thumbs); he fears he’s going soft living with Julia, and he’s certain he is a Bad Dog—as in “not a good representative of my species.” On a visit to the zoo with a storm threatening, Bob accidentally falls into the gorilla enclosure just as a tornado strikes. So that’s what it’s like to fly. In the storm’s aftermath, Bob proves to everyone (and finally himself) that there is a big heart in that tiny chest…and a brave one too. With this companion, Applegate picks up where her Newbery Medal winner left off, and fans will be overjoyed to ride along in the head of lovable, self-deprecating Bob on his storm-tossed adventure. His wry doggy observations and attitude are pitch perfect (augmented by the canine glossary and Castelao’s picture dictionary of dog postures found in the frontmatter). Gorilla Ivan described Julia as having straight, black hair in the previous title, and Castelao's illustrations in that volume showed her as pale-skinned. (Finished art not available for review.)

With Ivan’s movie out this year from Disney, expect great interest—it will be richly rewarded. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299131-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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