Solid rules; one wishes they were better learned and more consistently rewarded, though.


When “Be my buddy, or I’ll bust your bones!” doesn’t work for Benny, who is the classic shark cliché of a villain’s villain, he takes Janice Jellyfish’s words of wisdom to heart and attends Friend School.

Ollie Octopus is the teacher, and he begins with Rule No. 1: “A friend is a good listener.” Unsurprisingly, no one wants to practice with Benny, so he butts in on the shrimps’ conversation about their favorite food and is reminded to listen first. Surprisingly, he manages to keep to himself the fact that shrimp is his favorite food. Rule No. 2 is “A friend always tells the truth,” but though Ollie tells Benny that “My, Janice, you’re an ugly jellyfish” is impolite, he doesn’t really explain what exactly this rule entails. Benny flat-out breaks the fourth rule and the spirit of the third—about taking turns and sharing—with no consequences. The final rule addresses good sportsmanship, and Benny finally sees the light when he refuses to take the easy win in a race and helps Janice out of a pickle instead, thereby earning his first friend. Ollie promptly declares an A-plus for Benny, and he graduates the next day (despite not really having learned all the rules) while practicing one final rule about keeping promises. Montijo’s watercolor, pen-and-ink, and digital illustrations are reminiscent of television cartoons, and characters’ expressions are over-the-top clichéd villain and victims.

Solid rules; one wishes they were better learned and more consistently rewarded, though. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4778-2803-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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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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