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A DOG DAY FOR SUSAN

A shaggy dog story that’s both funny and disquieting.

“It’s not fair, Barney,” grouses Spencer to his brown-and-white mutt. “Susan is treated better than me. It’s like…it’s like she’s the human and I’m the dog!”

When Great-Aunt Alice visits Spencer’s family with her indulged Afghan hound, Susan, poor Spencer is aced out of a steak, the last piece of breakfast bacon, and a visit to the zoo, among other indignities. Boy and mutt take the royal creature to an off-leash park, where Barney teaches her how to eat garbage, roll in a mud puddle, play with other dogs, and run loose. Great-Aunt Alice is appalled at her muddy, tangled hound with garbage breath, and they leave in a huff so that both may return to their regular, disciplined lives. Will Susan revert to being a real dog after her brief time of true dogdom, or will she once again be a princess? Readers must decide, though Spencer thinks he knows. Action is strongly portrayed in Arnaldo’s mixed-media drawings, which show personalities, activities, and characters—the dogs are especially well-done. (Spencer and his family are white.) The story is overextended, however, and it raises some questions. Children may wonder whether it’s meant to be humorous when Spencer is deprived of food and Susan of activity. The illustrations convey the humor and fun, while the anecdotes sometimes seem selfish and mean.

A shaggy dog story that’s both funny and disquieting. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77147-144-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

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

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. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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