Go, Unlimited Squirrels! Go, readers!

I WANT TO SLEEP UNDER THE STARS!

From the Unlimited Squirrels series

A star-themed bedtime story—and so much more!

The Unlimited Squirrels’ third series entry offers a “BIG Story!” along with a smorgasbord of squirrelly miscellany (jokes, a quiz, and facts). In the “BIG Story,” Zoom Squirrel dreams of sleeping under the stars for the first time. So, Zip Squirrel summons five other pals to help make it happen. At first the squirrels are uncertain how to help, but one suggests they all offer encouragement since Zoom Squirrel is trying something new (“Being encouraged gives me courage!”). The friends form a squirrel pyramid and chant “GO, ZOOMY!” and “YOU CAN DO IT!” But their encouragement doesn’t quite land. Zoom Squirrel wants “PEACE and QUIET,” not encouragement. The friends assume they’re simply using the wrong cheer so they split up into teams to shout “PEACE!” and whisper “Quiet!” By the time Zoom Squirrel corrects them again, it’s morning and the stars are gone! Having established the series formula, Willems is now free to explore it, and the installments get better and better. The smart design and layout uses color-coding and “emote-acorns” to help emerging readers decipher not only words and textual features, but feelings. The fact-based sections playfully combine photographs with Willems’ cartoon illustrations. In lieu of a bibliography to support the informational content, Willems thanks experts—a nod at citation but one that, unfortunately, doesn’t help readers who want to investigate further. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-13-inch double-page spreads viewed at 76% of actual size.)

Go, Unlimited Squirrels! Go, readers! (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-05335-8

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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 lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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