Mabel has moxie, but she deserves a better story. As Mabel herself might say, “Send for the script doctor, darlings.”...



From the Naughty Mabel series

A pampered French bulldog experiences a sudden decline in her eyesight, affecting her mobility and perceptions of potential threats.

Little Mabel established her opulent lifestyle and divalike demeanor in her previous self-narrated story, Naughty Mabel (2015). In this sequel, Mabel’s eyesight mysteriously goes haywire, and she runs into walls, mistakes a bowl of potpourri for her dogfood dish, and begins to experience double vision. The meandering, overlong text describes how Mabel’s eye problems worsen at night, when she perceives large shapes as monsters about to attack her. On a sleepover with friends, she smashes dinosaur skeletons and, back in her own home, beats a gigantic armchair with her pink baseball bat, leading to a trip to the eye doctor for an exam. (Another dog owner there is a black woman; Mabel’s owners and her next-door neighbor are white.) Mabel tries on different kinds of “very attractive” glasses, but her owners choose contact lenses as “more practical for an active girl.” Mabel’s sassy attitude and over-the-top antics have a slapstick appeal, but several of the jokes in her witty dialogue are way over the heads of young readers, who likely won’t be familiar with potpourri, couscous, Martha Stewart, or black-and-white movies starring Bette Davis. The final gag depends on readers having a fairly sophisticated, well-developed sense of irony—debatable for the younger end of the audience range. Clever, cartoon-style illustrations and a supersized format provide visual heft for Mabel’s narrative but can’t compensate for the weaknesses of the text.

Mabel has moxie, but she deserves a better story. As Mabel herself might say, “Send for the script doctor, darlings.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3024-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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


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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