Another funny, visually rollicking work from the creator of Chester (2007) and Scaredy Squirrel (2006). (Picture book. 4-8)

BUG IN A VACUUM

A bug flies indoors, is sucked into a vacuum, and experiences the five stages of grief while entrapped.

The narrative plays it straight, but the double-page spreads—over 40 of them—tell a far livelier story. When the fly’s first imprisoned amid thick dust and sucked-up detritus, it denies and deflects: “Doesn’t get much cozier than this… / Can’t wait to tell my friends about this place!” Watt, formerly in advertising, packages each successively introduced stage as a product. “Bargaining” is a box of laundry detergent, while “Anger” is a retro-looking TV dinner. She includes a clever, visually parallel story about the household’s dachshund, whose favorite toy, a knitted, button-eyed dog, suffers the same fate as the bug. As the highly dramatic insect emotes through the five stages, using the bits and pieces it’s been sucked up with as imaginative props, the dog experiences them silently. In the “Anger” section, as the fly creates a ruckus inside, the dog attacks the vacuum, seeking his toy’s liberation. The “Acceptance” phase coincides with the discarding of the now-busted machine at the dump. There, the toy is regurgitated, and the fly emerges through the proverbial tunnel of light. A final spread shows the dog cavorting with a new canine acquaintance, while above, its former toy warms a bird’s nest of eggs.

Another funny, visually rollicking work from the creator of Chester (2007) and Scaredy Squirrel (2006). (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77049-645-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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