Whimsy in search of an audience.

I WISH I HAD A PET

Quirky dioramas illustrate this explication of pet care.

Rudy’s carefully composed scenes feature clever components and unexpected details, including felted figures, repurposed household objects, torn paper and objects from the natural world. The straightforward text begins by speaking directly to the small, pensive-looking mouse who appears on the first page: “Do you wish sometimes… / that you had a pet?” Many of the following spreads (a mix of single- and double-page) have only one or two simple declarative sentences or phrases, giving the text a staccato feel. All are useful suggestions: “Pick a pet that suits your style,” or “Pick a pet you’ll like to exercise.” The illustrations, meanwhile, provide offbeat extensions of the simple text—a fuzzy yellow caterpillar worn like a feather boa or a pair of bees flying on leashes. Most scenes have an old-fashioned feel, featuring antique toys, fancy miniature furniture, bits of lace, old letters and postage stamps—details that will resonate more with adults than young listeners. The few instances of mild humor are also likely to go over children’s heads. Despite the general-sounding advice, this is ultimately the very specific story of one young mouse’s search for the perfect pet—and a demonstration of one artist’s fascination with creating realistic rodents and placing them in charming domestic scenes.

Whimsy in search of an audience. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-5332-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Hee haw.

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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