As the world does not lack for picture-book tours of the Big Apple, feel free to turn this visit down.

CAN I BRING SABER TO NEW YORK, MS. MAYOR?

In the same vein as her other books about bringing extinct animals to inappropriate locations (Can I Bring Woolly to the Library, Ms. Reeder?, 2012), Grambling presents a tour of New York City with a saber-toothed tiger.

On the first page, a little boy implores the mayor of New York (shown here resembling nothing so much as a mildly depraved Janet Reno) to allow him and his pet saber-toothed tiger to visit her fair city. The boy elucidates the many places they could visit (all the usual NYC hotspots) while making it clear that Saber would be a real asset to Ms. Mayor in her day-to-day duties. After proposing a day of such imagined activities as scaling the Empire State Building from the outside, attending a Yankees game and holding a party in the Central Park Zoo, the boy comes to realize that perhaps the city would be too noisy for his little pet. Fortunately he has an equally kooky replacement in mind. Ice Age–loving kids would undoubtedly adore a Saber of their own, but that’s not enough to save this book. Grambling’s plot rambles, and Love’s exaggerated, sometimes-grotesque accompanying illustrations do not provide enough visual narrative to compensate.

As the world does not lack for picture-book tours of the Big Apple, feel free to turn this visit down. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-58089-570-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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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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