A ten-gallon hat full of fun, with a heartfelt message to boot.

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COWBOY BOYD AND MIGHTY CALLIOPE

A cowboy and his rhino (yes, rhino!) defy convention in this fresh and funny tale.

Van Doninck and Moser transport readers into the American West as their heroes—silhouetted by the rising sun—ride toward the Double R Ranch hoping to find work and a home. Yet something about this idyllic picture is amiss. Calliope, as the ranch hands invariably note, is different. Unfamiliar with rhinoceroses, everyone mistakes her for a horse, leading to some misplaced expectations. Boyd, however, is an ever-faithful friend, always noting his four-legged pal’s positive qualities. His one-sided view and her different skill set cost them their jobs one by one, until the cattle get loose and Calliope saves the day. Digital illustrations feel handcrafted, and the details offer a tactile sensibility that gives the animals weight and warmth. The characters are also loose and spontaneous, and a warm palette echoes the desert setting. Visuals perfectly match text, and adult readers may find a Sam Elliott lilt inflicting their voices. Phrasing and use of onomatopoeia also contribute to the story’s comedic moments, accentuated by a design that integrates images with text. The silly situation bolsters the themes of kindness, friendship and acceptance, as the characters learn to have a strong belief in each other.

A ten-gallon hat full of fun, with a heartfelt message to boot. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-87056-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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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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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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