SCARLATTI'S CAT

Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but...

Despite an intriguing premise, Lachenmeyer and Beccia’s collaboration doesn’t quite manage to produce a pleasing composition.

Legend has it that Scarlatti’s "Sonata in G Minor" was inspired by his pet cat, Pulcinella. Lachenmeyer uses this as a jumping-off point and imagines that the fancy feline has a particular interest in (and talent for) composition. Though initially stymied by Scarlatti’s dictum that no one may touch his harpsichord, Pulcinella gets her chance one day when a bold mouse in a bright blue vest pops up and leads both cat and master on a merry chase. When her paws hit the keys, Pulcinella begins to play. Initially captivated, Scarlatti later worries about the impact of her talent on his livelihood and decides that passing his pet on to a friend is the best way to protect himself and other composers. Beccia’s illustrations feature subdued colors, elaborate details and faux crackling to enhance the historical feel. Unfortunately, the stiffness of the figures, though artistically appropriate, creates a sense of distance. Unlikely events, uneven pacing, and the unsettling, if ultimately amusing, finale further reduce the already limited appeal.

Music lovers might appreciate this slight story that ties the creation of a popular classical sonata to a pampered pet, but most young listeners will simply be left wondering what poor Pulcinella did to be abandoned by her owner. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5472-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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THE WONKY DONKEY

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. 28, 2018

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FLY GUY PRESENTS: SHARKS

From the Fly Guy series

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity.

Buzz and his buzzy buddy open a spinoff series of nonfiction early readers with an aquarium visit.

Buzz: “Like other fish, sharks breathe through gills.” Fly Guy: “GILLZZ.” Thus do the two pop-eyed cartoon tour guides squire readers past a plethora of cramped but carefully labeled color photos depicting dozens of kinds of sharks in watery settings, along with close-ups of skin, teeth and other anatomical features. In the bite-sized blocks of narrative text, challenging vocabulary words like “carnivores” and “luminescence” come with pronunciation guides and lucid in-context definitions. Despite all the flashes of dentifrice and references to prey and smelling blood in the water, there is no actual gore or chowing down on display. Sharks are “so cool!” proclaims Buzz at last, striding out of the gift shop. “I can’t wait for our next field trip!” (That will be Fly Guy Presents: Space, scheduled for September 2013.)

A first-rate sharkfest, unusually nutritious for all its brevity. (Informational easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-50771-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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