This whimsical, intriguing, and perplexing puzzle provides an entertaining introduction to puffins.


When a coastal city in Newfoundland is mysteriously inundated with puffins, no one knows what to do until “someone small and smart” devises the perfect plan.

Suddenly, puffins are “popping up everywhere.” Could they be attracted to the city lights, the rows of colorful houses, or the seafood restaurants? Regardless, puffins appear downtown in “unexpected places.” Overhead and underfoot, puffins disturb traffic and businesses, make pets and pigeons uncomfortable, and generally interfere with “everyone’s fun.” People start collecting puffins, hoping to export them to a faraway place—maybe Iceland. Then a clever girl offers a plan to temporarily solve the “puffin problem.” Endnotes explain how the droll, spare, simple text fictionalizes an actual annual occurrence in St. John’s, when puffins become stranded on land. A “Some Fun Puffin Facts” section provides puffin miscellany. The equally droll, spare, and simple pencil-and-watercolor illustrations rely on judicious use of white space, precise lines, and flat colors to produce amusing, detailed drawings of city houses, streets, and businesses. Discerning readers must look carefully, however, to visually detect the tiny, neatly rendered, but quite distinctive puffins perched on rooftops, doorsteps, telephone booths, fountains, playground equipment, basketball hoops, soccer balls, and carousels.

This whimsical, intriguing, and perplexing puzzle provides an entertaining introduction to puffins. (notes) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-927917-14-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Running the Goat

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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. 29, 2018

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Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers.

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Is Kitty only a kitten? Or might she be a noble unicorn?

Inspired by the unicorn on her poster, Kitty crafts a perfect horn and admires herself in the mirror. She feels “unicorn-y.” Her friends disagree. “ ‘You’re not a unicorn, putty-pie,’ says Parakeet. / ‘You’re curled up like a cat, fluffy-fry,’ says Gecko.” So Kitty uncurls to prance and gallop, but her detractors point out her tiny tail. With some effort she plumps it up. They tell her she will never be a unicorn because she meows like a cat; this, of course, prompts her to let out a loud “NEIGH!” Parakeet and Gecko are having none of it, each time varying their mild name-calling. As the sun dips low, Kitty’s sure her long shadow looks like a unicorn’s—until a real unicorn clops into view. Gecko and Parakeet are impressed, and Kitty feels insignificant. But this unicorn has a secret…a pair of fluffy, pink kitty ears the same pink as Kitty’s. They can be kitty-corns together, best friends. Unicorn fans will definitely identify with Hale’s protagonist and respond well to Pham’s bright cartoons, laid out as spot illustrations that pop against the mostly all-white backgrounds. The way Kitty’s friends dismissively poke fun with their name-calling may give some readers pause, but the be-true-to-the-inner-you message and the expressive characterizations add appeal. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.2% of actual size.)

Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5091-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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