An energetic Christmas countdown for kids who wonder whether they’ve been naughty or nice. (Picture book. 3-7)

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DEAR SANTA, I KNOW IT LOOKS BAD, BUT IT WASN'T MY FAULT

Scalawag the cat may be a little too naughty to make Santa’s “nice” list.

In a series of letters to Santa, Scalawag pleads his case that the mischief he’s been getting into isn’t all that bad. Hilarious illustrations tell otherwise. Scalawag writes “I tried every new food in front of me. I always finished my dinner,” while Beckman’s scratchy cartoons depict him getting into doughnuts, chips, and cake. His owner, Miss Violet (who keeps alive the stereotype of the middle-aged, single cat lady), always gets him catnip mice for Christmas, and he’s seen far too many of those, as he points out to Santa; this year he’d like a new “Catman and Robin” video game. His misadventures escalate. Scalawag misuses the neighbor’s sandbox and gets his head stuck in a pitcher of milk (after drinking its contents), precipitating a chain of events that doesn’t end until a toppled tree catches on fire, bringing the paramedics. Miss Violet forgives all, fortunately. Scalawag’s narrative voice is slightly snarky, and Beckman’s lightly drawn, cheerful illustrations capture the expressions of all the characters perfectly. There’s plenty of humor here, from the cat sprawled on a couch on the cover, balefully eyeing a Christmas tree with its shiny, red foil ornaments, to the endpapers covered with dozens of stuffed mice. Miss Violet is white, as is her best friend; Dr. Tim the vet is black.

An energetic Christmas countdown for kids who wonder whether they’ve been naughty or nice. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4413-2421-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Peter Pauper Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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 sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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