A perceptive how-to for beginner storytellers.

READ REVIEW

ALSO AN OCTOPUS

OR, A LITTLE BIT OF NOTHING

Debut author Tokuda-Hall and veteran illustrator Davies deconstruct the art of storytelling in this insightful, playful primer.

What does every story need? A character, first of all. In this story, readers meet a ukulele-playing octopus. The octopus must desire something “for it to be a story,” suggests the narrator. And what’s better than wanting a “totally awesome shining purple spaceship capable of intergalactic travel”? The octopus must earn the spaceship, though—by building it out of stuff like glue, soda cans, and waffles. It’s hard to build a spaceship, and even if the octopus receives help from an adorable bunny, it may not quite end up working out. “By now, the octopus is starting to give up.” Mixing deadpan humor with whimsical, endearing characters, Tokuda-Hall spins a reader-friendly metanarrative out of a wickedly absurd premise. Filled with numerous shades of purple, yellow, and blue, Davies’ inspired digital artwork springs from the page, like bursts of an overactive imagination. Exaggerated facial expressions also incite laughs, including a spread of the octopus in a “despondent” swoon. Yet this story wraps up a little too neatly, throwing in a contrived, feel-good resolution. Incapable of building a spaceship, the discouraged octopus plays the ukulele, attracting a racially diverse crowd of music-loving rocket scientists. Too easy? Perhaps, but maybe that’s the point.

A perceptive how-to for beginner storytellers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7084-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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