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OTIS AND THE TORNADO

From the Otis series

Technically accomplished art plus uncomplicated characters, plot and theme (depressingly timely) add up to a likely crowd...

The Little Tractor That Could introduced in Otis (2009) gets another chance to shine when a violent weather event requires a daring rescue.

Standing out against neutral-toned bucolic backdrops plainly modeled on Thomas Hart Benton’s farmscapes, Otis and his livestock friends delight in games of Follow-the-Leader—all, that is, except the penned-up bull, who greets all approaches with snarling hostility. When the winds rise and a tornado threatens, Otis hustles the animals to a dry gully…then hears the bull’s frightened bellow. Bravely racing—“putt puff puttedy chuff”—out into the storm, Otis breaks down the gate and, just in time, leads the terrified bovine bully to safety. Fronting Otis with an expressive face and depicting the angry bull from low angles to give him massive, monumental presence, Long once again places anthropomorphic figures with distinct identities in large-scale settings that have an antique look but a timeless feel. The simply told narrative likewise has a classic air: “Soon the horse would trot to the lead with a ‘Neigh, neigh,’ as his hooves clip-clop-clip-clopped.” The episode ends with a traditional resolution too, as discreetly used color highlights expand in the final scene to a brightly sunlit view of Otis leading friends—including the reformed bull—in a fresh parade through flower-strewn fields.

Technically accomplished art plus uncomplicated characters, plot and theme (depressingly timely) add up to a likely crowd pleaser. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25477-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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THE WONKY DONKEY

Hee haw.

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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. 28, 2018

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FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

From the Fly Guy series

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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