With a peculiar ending, shaky plot, and passive art, this book may appeal to hard-core dog lovers, but it will likely leave...

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THE SECRET LIFE OF FIGGY MUSTARDO

A bored, imaginative dog makes his dreams a reality.

Figgy loves his human owner, George Mustardo. But sometimes George leaves for long stretches of time. A pattern develops: the very bored Figgy waits, eats something he shouldn’t, and then dreams about something directly related to the item ingested. When Figgy awakens, he makes his dreams come true. Despite this obvious intentionality, Figgy’s dreams (himself as a rock star, pizza maker, race car driver) feel arbitrary. And while a canine protagonist who thinks like a human requires a suspension of disbelief, the fact that Figgy is sometimes very doggish (eating paper) and other times very human (rock-’n’-rolling) is strange—as are the pop-culture references that young children will most likely miss. Spreads depicting Figgy’s life, dreams, and dreams-come-true lack dynamic, while the few pages in which he’s bored—three separate illustrations per spread with hilariously evident emotion—are the most engaging. And though Figgy has personality, the other animals depicted are cute but disappointingly flat. The clunky ending, during which Figgy decides to give himself away while his family (all white), who thinks he’s unwell, provides him with a companion rather than a trip to the vet or more attention, doesn’t make much sense.

With a peculiar ending, shaky plot, and passive art, this book may appeal to hard-core dog lovers, but it will likely leave general readers befuddled. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-228582-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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