WHAT TO DO IF AN ELEPHANT STANDS ON YOUR FOOT

The moral of this tongue-in-cheek instruction book is, Don’t Startle the Elephant.

If, in the course of your explorations, an elephant stands on your foot, "keep calm," lest you rouse the tiger, and then the rhino, snakes and crocodiles, requiring a rescue by monkeys. Our intrepid explorer (outfitted with safari vest, adventurer’s hat and binoculars) has one misadventure after another in this effective collaboration between words and pictures. Sharp-eyed readers will see the problems coming even before the reveal of the page turn. The narrator, whose helpful advice appears in the white above the cartoon-like illustrations, is not above saying “[t]old you so” and “don't say I didn’t warn you.” While adults may want to remind the creators there are no tigers on the African savanna, the apparent setting for this romp—why not a leopard or a lion?—children will happily go along with the story’s silliness. Reynolds’ traveler bears a strong resemblance to his rendition of Judy Moody. His Horton-like elephant is particularly appealing, his tiger and alligators especially toothy, and the monkeys downright manic. The humor of these watercolor drawings fits the exaggeration of the storyline nicely. When the ending suggests that the story is starting over, listeners will be happy to hear it again. This is Robinson’s first published picture book, but others are in the pipeline.

A promising launch. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3398-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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