MRS. WOW NEVER WANTED A COW

This reader in the longstanding Beginner Books series marries trendily retro pictures and an amusing text. While mowing her lawn, apparent singleton Mrs. Wow encounters a grazing cow. Her cat, Meow, and dog, Bow-Wow, who prefer sleeping and eating to their chores, try to get the cow to catch mice and guard the house, with predictable results. “This cow is useless!” they cry. When Mrs. Wow explains to her “lazy crazy pets” that cows “can only do two things”—eat grass and give milk—she gets a brainstorm. And though she acquires two new chores herself (milking and hand-cranking ice cream), it’s a fair exchange for an end to mowing, and a dog and cat thrilled to work for ice cream. Freeman misses a few chances for the textual symmetry so important to the format, but repeating phrases and a pleasant use of incidental rhyme fit the bill. Salerno’s pictures channel erstwhile greats in the publisher’s series—notably Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman—by way of Nickelodeon cartoons, and purple Bow-Wow owes a little something to Margaret Bloy Graham’s Harry. Bright, painterly swathes of color add dynamism of their own, and bold black outline simplifies compositions appropriately for a beginning reader. A romp. (Easy reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 27, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83418-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2006

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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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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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