HOW GROUNDHOG’S GARDEN GREW

Good intentions crash and burn when the ill winds of pedantry overwhelm this story of a garden’s year. Here is Little Groundhog doing what groundhogs were born to do: seek and destroy gardens. Along comes Squirrel, looking to turn Nature on its ear with admonition and instruction. “ ‘Little Groundhog!’ Squirrel scolded. ‘This garden does not belong to you. . . . Why don’t you plant your OWN garden?’ ‘I’m sorry,’ Little Groundhog told her, embarrassed, ‘but I don’t know how.’ ‘Well, then,’ replied Squirrel, ‘I will show you.’ ” And he does, teaching elementary gardening as he goes. While there is no denying the elegance of Cherry’s illustrations—some full-bleed, others bordered by the subjects of the page, all peopled with winsome creatures—the text is a relentless machine that force-feeds its message, something like what a duck must experience getting the foie gras treatment. “First, you will need seeds.” “First, we need to dig in the soil to loosen it up.” “First, we’ll need to cut them into little pieces with 2 sprouts each.” Sensible comments are made regarding organic gardening, the big difference in flavor between garden fresh vegetables and the store-bought variety, and the pleasure of the harvest, though this last, too, can feel strained: “Little Groundhog cried jubilantly.” “Little Groundhog rejoiced!” Maybe it’s all best summed up in Cherry’s footnote: “But it’s not magic—it’s science; it’s life.” Banishing magic from the garden—there’s an idea whose time should never come. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-32371-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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JOHNNY APPLESEED

Though she never says outright that he was a real person, Kurtz introduces newly emergent readers to the historical John Chapman, walking along the Ohio, planting apple seeds, and bartering seedlings to settlers for food and clothing. Haverfield supplies the legendary portions of his tale, with views of a smiling, stylishly ragged, clean-shaven young man, pot on head, wildlife on shoulder or trailing along behind. Kurtz caps her short, rhythmic text with an invitation to “Clap your hands for Johnny Chapman. / Clap your hands for Johnny Appleseed!” An appealing way to open discussions of our country’s historical or legendary past. (Easy reader/nonfiction. 5-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-689-85958-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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