A lackluster effort to latch on to a stalwart classic.


A new adventure for the little white dog with black spots, rendered “in the styles” of the original series’ author and illustrator.

Opening as usual—“Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything…”—the tale finds Harry “not pleased” that a visiting guinea pig is “getting all the attention.” He regains his top-dog status after sneaking into school and (somehow) opening its cage during show-and-tell, then tracking it through the playground, past a shushing librarian, and into the cafeteria, where it is sitting on a table munching veggies. The children’s praise for this “clever detective work” settles Harry’s ruffled fur so he can happily get “back to his old tricks.” After this bland story, readers may well be happy to return to those old tricks as well. Aside from tinting the skin of Harry’s family slightly (they now have peach skin and rosy cheeks but still present White) and introducing some racial diversity to the school’s group scenes Joshaghani’s illustrations don’t add anything fresh or updated either. But this is meant, after all, to be a nostalgia trip. Starting with the cover picture, the figures, furnishings, dress, décor, and even the overall compositions echo Margaret Bloy Graham’s. At least this offers the comfort of familiarity…and the actual author and illustrator get title-page credits (albeit in much smaller type than Graham and Gene Zion). (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 77% of actual size.)

A lackluster effort to latch on to a stalwart classic. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-274773-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 1

A cuddly, squishy pug’s puggy-wuggy diary.

Equipped with both #pugunicorn and #pughotdog outfits, pug Baron von Bubbles (aka Bub) is the kind of dog that always dresses to impress. Bub also makes lots of memorable faces, such as the “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” expression aimed at Duchess, the snooty pink house cat. Some of Bub’s favorite things include skateboarding, a favorite teddy, and eating peanut butter. Bub also loves Bella, who adopted Bub from a fair—it was “love at first sniff.” Together, Bub and Bella do a lot of arts and crafts. Their latest project: entering Bella’s school’s inventor challenge by making a super-duper awesome rocket. But, when the pesky neighborhood squirrel, Nutz, makes off with Bub’s bear, Bub accidentally ruins their project. How will they win the contest? More importantly, how will Bella ever forgive him? May’s cutesy, full-color cartoon art sets the tone for this pug-tastic romp for the new-to–chapter-books crowd. Emojilike faces accentuate Bub’s already expressive character design. Bub’s infectious first-person narration pushes the silly factor off the charts. In addition to creating the look and feel of a diary, the lined paper helps readers follow the eight-chapter story. Most pages have fewer than five sentences, often broken into smaller sections. Additional text appears in color-coded speech bubbles. Bella presents white.

Totes adorbs. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53003-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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