A nostalgic piece that, however beautiful, seems wasted on this age group. (Picture book. 5-8)

READ REVIEW

THE RIDDLE HORSE

A nostalgic riddle: what horse is this?

"Every day I stand next to a mirror, but I have never seen myself in it." The eponymous horse describes charging up San Juan Hill, starring in spaghetti Westerns, winning the Derby and medaling in "every Olympics. Always." The horse has traveled thousands of miles but never ended up more than 30 feet away from where it started—because, of course, it's a carousel horse. Readers who have any familiarity with merry-go-rounds will have probably identified it before cracking the cover, on which prances a carousel horse in all its carven glory, lacking only a pole. This quibble aside, the riddle is clever, but it seems designed to appeal more to adults than children, who likely won't understand the references to Teddy Roosevelt or feel the same sense of a historic past. Likewise, the textured scratchboard-and–oil wash illustrations, in a muted palette and set against lots of white space, are lovely but seem deliberately old-fashioned, almost static, and not child-friendly at all. Every rider and every child depicted is white. The idea here isn't bad, but it's slight enough that it might have worked better as a magazine piece.

A nostalgic piece that, however beautiful, seems wasted on this age group. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56846-291-2

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

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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