Sly, dark humor for little ones—at its best.

LION, LION

Readers must pay careful attention to both the words and the pictures in this quirky, humorous book about a boy who is shouting out, “Lion!” and a lion who is hungry.

The benign expression of the enormous, cartoonish lion on the cover and the fearless stance on the smiling boy, who looks to be African-American, standing nearby are excellent clues to young readers that this will be a humorous tale, with a relatively harmless carnivore. Even so, the lion looks quite menacing on the title page and on the first double-page spread, as he emerges from behind a building to see the boy shouting, “Lion!” Readers are meant to feel befuddled when the lion asks the boy, “What are you doing?” and the boy says, “Trying to find Lion.” The underlying feeling of unease continues when the lion leans in, eyes intent, and tells the boy “I’m looking for lunch.” Readers will be confused, and then delighted, as they observe why the lion, offered some luncheon choices, thinks that grass is too snappy, mushrooms too prickly and berries too stinky. The grand joke comes at the end, when the clever boy forces the lion to sneeze, and there is another play on the same theme on the very last page.

Sly, dark humor for little ones—at its best. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-227104-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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 straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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