A young girl reminisces about the life of her cat, Desser, chronicling how the frisky kitten was acquired—“a long, long time ago, when my daddy had big hair"—and how their friendship blossomed. As the tale unfolds, both Desser and the narrator grow up; the passage of time is marked by the girl's milestones, moving from babyhood to childhood, first steps, first day of school, etc. With advancing age, Desser weakens and becomes sickly. Smith (Dear Daisy, Get Well Soon, 2000, etc.) handles the cat's decline with a delicate honesty. When Desser does die, readers and the narrator are prepared, though sorrowful. What follows is a burial, "with most of his toys and plenty of treats for the long journey up to Cat Heaven," and the eventual arrival of a new kitten. Smith's tale validates the grief a child experiences at the loss of a pet while comforting readers with the notion that although Desser's physical self is gone, he will never be forgotten because of the love the girl had for him. The expressive illustrations deftly convey the emotional tenor of the tale. Smith's renderings of Desser's antics capture the many facets of cathood—from regal aloofness to downright silliness. Every drawing is a salute to the deep bonds between child and pet, filled with typical activities and lots of details. Woven throughout the text, they blend scrapbook-style photographs with engaging vignettes. This forthright, compassionate tale is a sweet, soothing balm for bereaved pet owners as well as any cat lover. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81056-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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