Though the story is simple, even obvious, it takes flight because of the ambitious design work, the kind of thing that can...

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MR. SANDMAN

"FEAR OF THE DARK"

A moody, beautifully rendered dreamscape, this app about conquering a fear of the dark takes full advantage of the iPad's capabilities.

In a small cottage, a nameless boy is being put to bed, and Mummy tells him the Sandman will soon help him off to sleep. After the Sandman visits, a mysterious owl leads the boy through landscapes and starry skies to learn why there's no reason to be afraid of nighttime. Scary things, like a wicked, twisted witch, turn out to be more normal objects like a squirrel in an old tree. Dark silhouettes against dense, textured backgrounds match the story’s tone beautifully. There are neat surprises, like moons that grow to reveal hidden things, a maze of purple clouds that must be flown through and a simple but brilliant navigation wheel that brings up all the features through easy-to-access icons. But perhaps the thing this app has to offer most to readers, and to the state of storybook apps, is its joyous transitions. On one page, readers brush away the last page to get to the next. On another, sleepy eyelids come together to blackout a page before the next one is illuminated by starlight. It's all accompanied by a lush, classical soundtrack. 

Though the story is simple, even obvious, it takes flight because of the ambitious design work, the kind of thing that can only be pulled off as an app like this. (iPad storybook app. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: hocusbookus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

HOW TO CATCH AN ELF

From the How to Catch… series

Wallace and Elkerton continue their series about catching elusive mythical creatures (How to Catch a Leprechaun, 2016, etc.) with this Christmas story about an elf who must avoid traps constructed by children before Santa’s annual visit.

The unnamed elf narrator is the sole helper traveling with Santa on his delivery rounds on Christmas Eve, with each house featuring a different type of trap for elves. The spunky elf avoids a mechanical “elf snatcher,” hidden in a plate of cookies, as well as simple traps made of tinsel, double-sided tape, and a cardboard box concealing a mean-looking cat. Another trap looks like a bomb hidden in a box of candy, and a complicated trap in a maze has an evil cowboy clown with a branding iron, leading to the elf’s cry, “Hey, you zapped my tushy!” The bomb trap and the branding iron seem to push the envelope of child-made inventions. The final trap is located in a family grocery store that’s booby-trapped with a “Dinner Cannon” shooting out food, including a final pizza that the elf and Santa share. The singsong, rhyming text has a forced cheeriness, full of golly-jolly-holly Christmas spirit and too many exclamation marks, as well as rhyming word pairs that miss the mark. (No, little elf-boy, “smarter” and “harder” do not rhyme.) Bold, busy illustrations in a cartoon style have a cheeky appeal with a focus on the freckle-faced white elf with auburn curls and a costume with a retro vibe. (Santa is also white.)

A forgettable effort that fails to capture any of the magical charm of Santa’s story. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4631-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2016

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