A trendy experiment in narrative, clumsily done and unlikely to gain much traction except as a curiosity.



Pfister swaps out words for signs—mostly big dots with happy, sad, or mad faces—in this tale of a trickster raven’s ups and downs.

Instead of words, emojis do the communication here. Walking along distractedly beneath a tiny storm cloud, Raven bashes into a tree (stars), poses with a bandaged beak (frowning pile of dung), then discovers (smirking devil) that sporting more bandages earns more sympathy (hearts and haloed, smiling dots) from other birds. That exploit ends when Raven, totally swathed, is first mistaken for litter and swept up with other trash (scowling faces). The bird then seeks a bit of redemption by bringing a distressed worm (cue a tiny version of the dung, now alarmed) to a cute baby bird (more smiles and hearts). The emojis, enlarged and redrawn with slightly more modeling than seen in standard versions, float singly or in clusters like balloons in the woodsy cartoon scenes. Though they work as broad signals of mood, their placement sometimes makes it unclear whether they’re supposed to apply to Raven or (the worm excepted) others. Also, the incandescent light bulb and devil’s face that appear when Raven first spots the baby bird plainly indicate some sort of trick in the offing, but Pfister leaves readers in the dark about what it might have been if the avian trickster hadn’t changed his mind on the next page. Some, not all, of the visual vocabulary is reproduced on two pages of large stickers at the end.

A trendy experiment in narrative, clumsily done and unlikely to gain much traction except as a curiosity. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-988-8341-23-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Minedition

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.


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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