Food for thought for monolingual mouselings—not to mention their parents and teachers.



A little mouse’s foreign-language skills save his family from a cat in this mother-daughter debut.

Reworking a Cuban folk tale (available in another version by Antonio Sacre and Alfredo Aguirre as The Barking Mouse, 2003), the authors introduce opera-loving mouse Mrs. Canta and her large family. Mrs. Canta speaks Cricket, Spider and Moth, as well as several human languages, so when the youngest, Chico Canta, echoes her “Dulces sueños, sweet dreams,” she exclaims “Bilingual” in approval. But Chico speaks more than just two languages, as he proves when a family production of Three Little Pigs is nearly spoiled by Little Gato-Gato and he leads the audience in a loud chorus of “Bow-wow! Bow-wow! Bow-wow!” that averts the threat. Everyone cheers: “Bilingual!” (Mora explains in an afterword that the term was chosen to “move the story along” and invites adult readers to introduce a more accurate one when appropriate). Seeing the head of the Big Bad Wolf costume hanging from a nail like a trophy in one scene may give viewers a brief turn, but in general, Carling’s illustrations capture the well-told story’s sweetly spirited tone, with views of tiny mice in colorful costume scampering about and away from a much larger but obviously young ginger kitten.

Food for thought for monolingual mouselings—not to mention their parents and teachers. (afterword) (Picture book/folk tale. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-343-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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