It’s good to see an active girl in medieval times, but this dragon story never really soars.

BABY DRAGON, BABY DRAGON!

A bright red baby dragon flies around a village of the European past with a young child chasing after.

Readers first spot the child, cued as a girl with long pigtails, pitching hay into a wagon, but all of a sudden, she is in a castle with a sword at her side. She wears a sleeveless green tunic and gray leggings, and it is hard to tell who she is within the hierarchy of her world. She speaks to the dragon: “Baby dragon, baby dragon, what a fast flight!” Marr uses this admiring, repetitive, rhythmic phrasing throughout the story but lets readers down by following up not with a rhyme but with bland prose text: “Baby dragon, baby dragon, what a big climb! / You scale tall walls and go up so high.” The girl clearly enjoys keeping up with the fun-loving dragon, flying on its back, looking at its treasures, and even cuddling up in its nest, but the text is persistently pedestrian. There is a strong sense of movement in the cartoonlike illustrations, created with both traditional and digital media. The child protagonist is light-skinned; some diversity among the kingdom’s inhabitants is shown in an amusing feasting scene in which the dragon fastidiously eats with the very tip of its tail, a bib around its neck.

It’s good to see an active girl in medieval times, but this dragon story never really soars. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-17525-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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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A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.

FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

From the Fly Guy series

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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