Not truly magical but fun and appealing.


A feline magician learns there’s magic in manners.

Marigold, a chubby, round-eyed, orange-and-white cat, goes all out for his birthday parties. This year, he’s performing a dazzling magic act. One trick goes awry, though: A bouquet that should vanish becomes a finch! Perfectionist Marigold believes he forgot the magical incantation. Trying again, he’s annoyed when the finch remains; still, the guests cheer. Marigold utters a different spell and two pigeons appear; the audience roars. Next try: three sea gulls. Marigold’s livid, yet everyone howls. This sleight-of-paw thing’s not working, and when his final attempt yields another failure, disconsolate Marigold shrieks for his audience to disappear. Finally, success! Realizing he needs to do something to coax partygoers back, Marigold says the best magic words there are. This works, too: Everyone returns—with some surprise visitors. The lively, energetic watercolors stand out and drive the story well. Marigold is highly expressive, his face and large eyes registering self-satisfaction, bluster, anger, and bewilderment to appealing comical effect; endpapers display accoutrements of the magician’s trade. Many words are capitalized in larger fonts throughout to heighten humorous dramatic tension.

Not truly magical but fun and appealing. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3743-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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. 29, 2018

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


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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