Joining the growing colony of self-referential meta–kid lit, this one-joke treatment has its moments. And the recipes...



From the Mixed-Up Book series

A purported editing error—substituting the letter “p” for “f” on a critical word throughout—transforms a tribute to figs into an appreciation of—pigs!

Initiating the high jinks, a mock “Message from the Publisher” conveys the error to readers (while griping about the author’s overreaching insistence on the disclaimer). Handwritten notes appear throughout, with the editor’s instructions and the author’s irritated, red-penciled responses. Palatini provides historical details about the fig in Greece, Egypt and Europe, information about certain named cultivars and a gushy author’s note, with recipes. Meanwhile, Groenink playfully sides with the editor, producing digital, gouache and pencil pictures teeming with pigs. “Some pigs are very popular and quite famous, such as Blanche, Celeste, Len and Tena. Of course, everyone knows Judy.” Groenink depicts these bona fide fig cultivars as porcine celebrities adorning the covers of Pigs Weekly and Porque. His “Judy” looks quite like Judy Garland, in black fedora and tuxedo jacket à la Summer Stock. The author’s escalating outrage at her narrative’s hijacking manifests in angry cross-outs and mock-vindictive, defacing cartoons. There’s no question the joke is well-executed, and it’s very funny for an audience that knows something about figs, but it will probably seem like more of the metaliterary same for most actual children.

Joining the growing colony of self-referential meta–kid lit, this one-joke treatment has its moments. And the recipes work—for figs. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1488-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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