Not natural history by any means, but this slice of (fly) life is beguilingly, infectiously whimsical.

ASTRID THE FLY

Astrid the fly introduces readers to her (huge) family and their home behind the sofa in this Swedish import.

Astrid tells readers how she loves to fly and watch “what’s happening behind the warm window” (the oven) and, most of all, how she loves to eat. Her favorite thing to eat is Danish salami! Once, she ate so much that she fell asleep in the refrigerator—although of course she doesn’t really understand what the refrigerator is. Her aunt tries to school her into sensible behavior with stories of danger, most particularly of the HORRIBLE INHALING MACHINE (young readers will recognize the universality of the vacuum cleaner) that got Uncle Abe, but Astrid is intrepid in her desire for exploration and food. She is pretty cute and, frankly, not very flylike, with her topknot and rosy cheeks. Reds and yellows and a lively black line dominate the ink-and-watercolor illustrations; the pictures look appropriately (for a fly) dashed off but are carefully composed with an eye to pattern and shape. What flies really eat besides foodstuffs children will recognize remains unmentioned, although Astrid gives a nod to changing food choices in the end.

Not natural history by any means, but this slice of (fly) life is beguilingly, infectiously whimsical. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3200-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Hee haw.

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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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Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories.

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CREEPY CARROTS!

Kids know vegetables can be scary, but rarely are edible roots out to get someone. In this whimsical mock-horror tale, carrots nearly frighten the whiskers off Jasper Rabbit, an interloper at Crackenhopper Field.

Jasper loves carrots, especially those “free for the taking.” He pulls some in the morning, yanks out a few in the afternoon, and comes again at night to rip out more. Reynolds builds delicious suspense with succinct language that allows understatements to be fully exploited in Brown’s hilarious illustrations. The cartoon pictures, executed in pencil and then digitally colored, are in various shades of gray and serve as a perfectly gloomy backdrop for the vegetables’ eerie orange on each page. “Jasper couldn’t get enough carrots … / … until they started following him.” The plot intensifies as Jasper not only begins to hear the veggies nearby, but also begins to see them everywhere. Initially, young readers will wonder if this is all a product of Jasper’s imagination. Was it a few snarling carrots or just some bathing items peeking out from behind the shower curtain? The ending truly satisfies both readers and the book’s characters alike. And a lesson on greed goes down like honey instead of a forkful of spinach.

Serve this superbly designed title to all who relish slightly scary stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-0297-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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