This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New...

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LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG CITY

From the Little Elliot series

The big city is clearly New York, but it’s a grayed and sepia city sometime in the late 1940s, judging from the cars and clothing.

Elliot is a small, polka-dot elephant who loves his city even though it is hard for him to catch a cab or even open a door. (And he does the dishes by sitting in the sink with them.) He’s too little to be seen when he tries to buy his favorite treat, a cupcake, and that makes him sad. But he sees a tiny, very hungry mouse trying desperately to scale a trash bin for scraps. He manages to help get Mouse something to eat, and lo! He feels “like the tallest elephant in the world!” With Mouse’s help, the next day he gets that cupcake. The last image peers through Elliot’s window to find him and Mouse sharing it. The Flatiron Building, brownstone steps and the Empire State Building are clearly recognizable, giving the story Big Apple authenticity. The art has its own meticulous beauty, but the story is more saccharine than sweet—rather like too much frosting on a cupcake. The endpapers are a lush repetitive pattern of variegated cupcakes, with cameos by Elliot and Mouse.

This feels far more like a parable for adults than a picture book for children, who may also miss the elegance of the New York City images in their dark, soft palette. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9825-9

Page Count: 42

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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