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

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BENNY SHARK GOES TO FRIEND SCHOOL

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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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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