Call the ref—this bulldog and baby are down for the count.



A French bulldog learns to love the new baby at his house.

Rosco is a “heavyweight champ,” a fierce protector of his territory. He barks at any perceived threat, illustrated by repeated streams of the word “Bark!” set in hand-lettered, flowing lines that cover an entire spread. Attractive, large-format illustrations in cut paper, watercolor, and pencil use a pastel palette and lots of white space to tell the story of the perceived matchup between bulldog and baby. At first Rosco is hurt and confused by the new, pink-skinned baby at his house, but then jealousy sets in, and the pair face off: “Two heavyweights. One house.” The story structure shifts to a boxing-match format, with dog and growing baby skirmishing in rounds one through eight, augmented by scores posted at the bottom of the page. By Round 8, the baby has grown into a toddler, and he and Rosco are pals, “totally knocked out” as they nap together. Boy and bulldog are then faced with new opponents: newborn twins. The final line of text ominously predicts, “This house wasn’t big enough for the four of them.” Though it may be amusing for adults, the boxing-match metaphor is on the ropes here, inappropriate and way over the heads of the intended audience. Showing a protective, jealous dog in an unsupervised setting with a baby sets up an unsafe situation that is presented as simply humorous.

Call the ref—this bulldog and baby are down for the count. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3657-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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