A solid entry in an entertaining series foreshadowing more adventures for the trio of Barkus, Baby, and Millie on the horizon

READ REVIEW

BARKUS DOG DREAMS

From the Barkus series , Vol. 2

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan continues her series of early chapter books with this second offering about Barkus the dog, his feline companion named Baby, and the child who owns them, Nicky.

The story unfolds in five short chapters narrated by Nicky, with bold, bright illustrations on every page and some pages printed on colored backgrounds. The episodic chapters include a visit to the vet, attending a town party, and rescuing some lost farm animals. Barkus makes friends with a neighbor’s dog, Millie, when they trade toys back and forth, and in the concluding chapter, Millie and her owner stay with Nicky’s family during a storm and power outage. Each chapter has some sort of reassuring development for Barkus, showing that he will be cared for and protected and appreciated. The plot also subtly reinforces the importance of helping others, with the rescue of the runaway farm animals, with Barkus rescuing a struggling singer with a convenient howl, and with Nicky's family kindly opening their home to Millie and her owner during the storm. The illustrations are varied in format and size, with amusing, buggy-eyed humans and animals, and each chapter has humor and surprising developments to keep young readers turning pages. The main characters present white, with supporting characters of different ethnicities, including a female vet with brown skin and black hair.

A solid entry in an entertaining series foreshadowing more adventures for the trio of Barkus, Baby, and Millie on the horizon . (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1676-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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